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Jeff Manion’s The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions (Zondervan, 2010) is about those times when life isn’t what it was and the future is uncertain. It’s about walking through the desert, a hard place like grief, lost jobs, financial duress, illness, broken relationships. The Land Between is a metaphor for the undesired transitions we experience in life.

If you haven’t experienced a time like this you haven’t lived long enough. Adversity comes to us all.

Under pressure, we choose to be and become. How we respond to pressure influences the kind of person we will be, perhaps for the rest of our lives.

Manion, Senior Teaching Pastor of Ada Bible Church in Michigan, notes that God wants to shape, mold, and refine us and that God knows we’re most open when we’re in the desert. He wants us to learn to trust him. God allows us to experience what we consider suffering so we may gain strengthen.

The Land Between is a quite readable book. It’s chock full of illustrative stories gleaned from years in Pastor Manion’s ministry and it features applications born of experience, personal and pastoral. Indeed the book’s most interesting paragraphs describe his own story and what he learned then and now.

This country seems to be in The Land Between right now. America isn’t sure of itself. We’re losing respect abroad. We’re engaging in infighting among ourselves. We’ve not agreed upon how to describe our enemies (meaning those who hate us), and we’re uncertain really how to describe ourselves. We can’t answer the question “What is an American,” which makes it difficult to resolve immigration issues.

America is in The Land Between. The way out for America is the same as the way out for individuals. Biblical signposts are visible. God has not forgotten and will respond. But we must respond first to him. The good news is there’s still time.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


Rita Elmounayer, SAT-7’s Executive Director of SAT-7 ARABIC and SAT-7 KIDS visited West Michigan in the past few days. She’s served with the ministry for 15 years—from it’s beginning as the first Christian satellite television outreach in the Middle East.

Rita is well known in the Middle East for her program, “Bedtime Stories With Rita.” Each night she reads Bible stories to young children, and if the hundreds of emails and text messages she receives are any indication, to teenagers and adults too.

While she was in Grand Rapids I asked her what she enjoyed most about her work with SAT-7. She thought for a moment and said, “Sharing about the ministry with people.”

I spent three days with her, listening to her share with a Sunday school class and with individuals in several meetings. She’s passionate, energetic, and totally committed to the Lord’s work as her work.

“It’s really eye-opening again how important the ministry is,” she said. “When you work you get caught up in the day-to-day pressures and you forget the essence of why you’re doing this. When I meet people and share stories about the Middle East it helps me stay in focus and feeling happy I’m used by God in this way.”

Rita is as professional as she is passionate, which is why she’s become a knowledgeable and influential Christian leader in Middle East missions.

Pray for her. She is a Lebanese Middle Easterner reaching Middle Easterners with the message of hope Christ offers one and all.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at

WWJD, What Would Jesus Do? It took the culture by storm in the past 20 years. It’s a simple and worthy creed for millions of Christians.

There’s another memory device that might be worth pondering regarding our challenges today, WDJD, What Did Jonah Do?

Jonah and the whale is one of the great Old Testament stories. Jonah was a reluctant servant. God said, “Go,” and Jonah said, “Who, me?” Jonah resisted, ran, repented—sort of, responded…and when the Lord blessed his ministry, Jonah rejected the results.

WDJD? Jonah didn’t want to take a message of God’s love and forgiveness to Nineveh, a people he considered a nemesis, if not an enemy, of his people.

But God had other plans and sent a great revival to Nineveh. Jonah didn’t like this either and the book entitled with his name ends with Jonah pouting under a vine.

God points out to Jonah that Nineveh had more than 120,000 children so young they didn’t know their left from right hands, suggesting a total population ranging to a million. Then God asks, “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11)

This is our challenge today: We live in a time when religions and regimes with strong anti-Western and anti-American postures are growing, aggressive, and threatening. Their advance seems like an unstoppable juggernaut, which is creating social tensions and political confusion throughout European countries and the United States. In addition, the West is still engaged in military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It might be easy, even understandable, and seemingly logical for us to feel like Jonah, resisting spiritual responsibility or opportunity for regional populations in the Middle East, Africa, or Asia.

But this is not the way the Lord works. He asks, “Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

We can ask WWJD and embrace Jesus’ approach, or we can ask WDJD and follow Jonah’s lead. Figuring this out may be the defining Christian challenge of the new millennium.

To read more on this subject click here.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at

About ten years ago, the university where I served as president experienced significant financial pressure.

We did everything organizations do in times of financial duress: postponed new initiatives, cutback programs, curtailed operations, discontinued activities, delayed hiring, and worst of all, laid-off personnel.

Somebody once said that when you’re squeezed what’s inside of you comes out. It’s true. Some people responded to the pressure, even loss of their own position, in remarkable demonstrations of faith and fortitude. Others, not so much. None of this was fun.

Professionally speaking, it was the most challenging thing I’d ever endured. I remember a weekend when I literally bent over with stress pains.

Of course I prayed, perhaps like never before. And I read the Scripture, certainly like never done before. In two months I read the entire book of the Psalms—twice.

I confess that up to this time the Psalms didn’t make much sense to me. David seemed to forever be in trouble and unable to deal with it. I used to think David needed more resolve, more “toughness.”

But I began to understand the Psalms in a new way and realized my assessment of David woefully missed the mark. Until then I’d never experienced anything that stopped me where I stood. I’d finally, as we all inevitably do in life, faced something I couldn’t handle. I felt like David.

Now I saw the Lord’s teaching clearly. When we face challenges beyond our capacity God is there. When we feel like failures God’s “unfailing love” is there. When we cannot go on God’s “strong arm” is there.

A year ago I wrote about God’s “unfailing love,” a phrase repeated many times in the Psalms. Now I share the other truth the Lord taught me in the Psalms: God’s “strong arm,” his “right arm,” upholds us.

Financial duress isn’t fun. It generates stress and anxiety. But God’s strong arm undergirds us.

God teaches us many things in adversity:

--He strengthens ministries during or even because of financial challenges.

--We can grow spiritually.

--We can actually make some needed adjustments more easily.

--We can re-vision, reposition, and restructure for greater mission effectiveness.

--We can experience what it means to be part of the Church when supporters pray and give.

--We’re reminded who owns the ministry.

The Apostle Paul said God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. So God’s strong arm is even stronger in the midst of financial shortfalls. Like the old hymn says, we can take heart “leaning on the everlasting arms.”


A version of this was originally published as "Encouraging Words" in "What's New With Our Family," SAT-7, Number 133, September 2010.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


There’s something about sports heroes. They’re different from other heroes. We get to know them.

Unlike other heroes—the woman who rescued a child from an oncoming car or the fellow who served his country in harms way—sports heroes do their deeds in front of us. We get to see it happen, time and again, in HD, TiVo, or live at the event. We get to be heroes vicariously, one of the great joys of sport.

So when sports heroes go awry it brings us up short. It’s no fun, unless you’re a bit perverse, to see sports heroes brought down to earth.

That’s the case with the New Orleans Saints Reggie Bush who yesterday gave his Heisman Trophy back. Bush returned the award to spare the Heisman Trophy Trust from having to ask for it. Both giving it back and asking for it back are unprecedented in the award’s 75-year history.

The NCAA recently ruled Bush was ineligible during his award winning 2005 season on the basis of evidence his family received hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts, free housing, and more from California agents. In other words, Bush was paid like a professional before he turned professional, a clear violation of NCAA policy.

Sports heroes are falling from grace, in part, because cultural commitment to character has declined in the past few decades. More youngsters are growing up without moral teaching, good role models, or moral restraint. You can see this in elementary and middle schools. If you don’t believe this ask school teachers, EMTs, fire-fighters, nurses, or police personnel who’ve been on the job for more than 25 years. They see it.

Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Marion Jones, Art Schlicter, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Tyson, O.J. Simpson, Barry Bonds, Pete Rose—athletes whose character failures harmed their careers and their lives. There are many more.

I think incidents like this are going to increase. Reason being, kids are still growing up in homes without both parents, without instruction in right and wrong, and little chance of getting either anywhere else. Neither schools, nor churches it seems, can handle it.

One of the great beauties of sport is the purity of competition. It’s the idea that we can watch athletes go head to head at the pinnacle of physical talent and skill with all the heart they can muster. And “May the best man/woman/team win.” And when they win it’s because they deserve to win, not because they cheated but because on that day they are truly the best.

The integrity of sport. Lose it and lose the meaning of sport.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at

I’m weary of the coarse, crass, and crude levels to which much of our entertainment culture has stooped. It’s been a forty-year dive during my lifetime and doesn’t seem to have reached its depth.

Latest evidence, for me at least, is the new Investigation Discovery channel program, originally airing August 25, called “Who the [BLEEP] Did I Marry?” It didn’t encourage me to learn the program weighed-in with early Nielsen success, meaning millions of people watched it.

The show features marriages gone bad, really bad, when a spouse eventually discovers some horrible skeleton in his or her mate’s closet. In other words, a spouse has been living a lie. The titillating nature of the show focuses upon betrayal.

The program is investigatory in the tradition of crime and justice shows, and I suppose there may be some positive contribution in all this for someone somewhere. But beyond the uncouth name of the show what bothers me most is that this feels more like voyeurism than humanitarianism.

I’d say the same for most—not all—of the so-called “reality shows” popularized in the past 10 years. These scripted-“unscripted” shows provide viewers with a steady stream of unrealistic-“reality,” much of it celebrating rude, crude, and lewd behavior. They focus on people apparently desperate for money or their fifteen minutes of fame and the raunchier, more vulgar, over-sexed, or profane they can be the greater the viewership.

Reality programs create wanna-be celebrities, actually non-celebrities, what some call “nonebrities,” meaning "a pointless media figure who would love to rise up high enough to scrape on to the bottom end of the D-list.” Sounds harsh but the debased dialogue in a lot of these programs suggests the term is, sadly, not far off the mark.

To name a few such programs: E!’s “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” MTV’s “A Shot At Love With Tia Tequila,” featuring 16 straight male and 16 lesbian female contestants working to earn the ostensibly bi-sexual Tequila’s attention, E!’s “Kendra,” HBO’s “Hung,” featuring pimps and a male prostitute, Oxygen’s “The Bad Girls Club,” the various “Real Housewives” shows, and many more.

Of course entertainment flaks always say, “Don’t watch if you don’t like it.” And to a certain extent they’re correct. If people don’t watch it puts pressure on advertisers and producers and, sometimes, push a program off the air.

But there’s also the scores of commercials marketing these programs that all of us have to endure even if we don’t watch. And there’s the fact that producers of such programs sometimes air them no matter their financial results because the producers, directors, actors, et al involved in the show get professional accolades from industry peers for “pushing the envelope.” They’re given kudos for achieving a brave new entertainment world—which in essence means doing whatever they want, recorded in HD.

You really don’t have to be a prude to be weary of in-your-face dumbed-down culture. It just gets old, especially when you consider how much of the nobility of human culture is out there, available but neglected in mass entertainment.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at