Article copyright by Bob Rogers
God does not call us to withdraw from our problems or our culture; He calls us to live in the world, without letting the world live in us.
Devotional | Genesis 26:2-5
Often, our instinct is to flee from our problems. When there was a famine in the land, Isaac, son of Abraham, considered moving south to Egypt, just as his father Abraham had done during a previous famine. Isaac got as far as Gerar, when the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt… stay in this land as an alien, and I will be with you and bless you” (Genesis 26:2-3). Why would God tell him to stay in such a difficult situation? Why does God sometimes tell us to hang in there?
Years before, Isaac’s father Abraham had also fled from the famine, only to get into worse problems. He lied about his wife Sarah, saying she was his sister. When Pharaoh took Sarah into his harem, God struck the Egyptians with plagues. Eventually, Pharaoh drove Abraham out of Egypt in disgrace. During this time in Egypt, there is no record of Abraham calling on the Lord in prayer, although he had before (see Genesis 12:10-20).
Isaac needed to learn a spiritual lesson from his father. Running from our problems can create new ones. Quitting school or giving up on a job or marriage may seem the easy way at the time, but it often leads to greater problems. Staying in a relationship and seeing a difficult job to the end can be rough, especially if those around us are hostile to our faith. Yet the rewards can be tremendous.
The Lord repeated to Isaac the same promises of blessing that He had promised to Abraham: “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky, I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring” (v. 4; compare Genesis 13:16; 15:5). Thankfully, Isaac learned the right lesson from his father Abraham. Instead of following Abraham’s bad example of running away, he followed Abraham’s good example of faith. Verse 6 says that Isaac stayed where he was in Gerar. Likewise, Jesus told us to shine our light to the world (Matthew 5:14), and He prayed that we would remain in the world, but not be of the world (John 17:15-16). In what ways is God telling you to hang in there and engage your culture for the gospel, rather than “fleeing the famine”?
My Bible class often teaches me as much as I teach them. This week was a good example. We were studying Ephesians 6:4, which says, “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath” (KJV), or, “Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children” (CSB). I noted that while the plural verb translated “fathers” can also be translated “parents” (as it is in Hebrews 11:23), and some mothers can provoke children by words and actions, the reality is that fathers are more often guilty of this.
Then I asked the class to give some specific examples of how parents do this, and they came up with this list of behaviors parents should avoid:
When I taught this same lesson to inmates at a prison, they added two more ways: humiliating children in front of their friends, making promises and giving expectations and then failing to fulfill them. Would you add any other ways to this list? Feel free to leave a comment or share your story.
Using a little reverse psychology, my friend Doug Munton hits the nail on the head with this list!
Married or planning to marry? Want to make that marriage as unhappy, bitter and painful as possible? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here are seven easy steps to having a lousy marriage.
1. Make your marriage all about you. This is Lousy Marriage 101. Don’t consider your spouse. Make it all about you, you, you. Forget their interests, needs or love language. Better to not think of them at all. Keep the focus of the marriage all about what you want, what you like and what you need. Is that so hard?
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Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church, a megachurch in Atlanta, writes Not Forsaken to help people see God as a good Heavenly Father, especially those who have had a bad earthly father. The subtitle says it well: “Finding Freedom as Sons & Daughters of a Perfect Father.”
Giglio begins by stating that every person has an innate need for a good father who is proud of him or her, yet the author readily recognizes that many people have had an abusive or absent earthly father, and this makes it difficult for them to affirm God as good. Giglio confronts this dilemma step-by-step, making frequent use of scripture. First, he explains that God is good, even if Dad was bad: “God is not the reflection of your earthly dad. He is the perfection of your earthly dad” (p.76). Then, Giglio encourages the reader to “reverse the curse” through forgiveness of a bad father, saying, “Bitterness continues to pave a path to your past, while forgiveness paves a way to your future” (p. 114). Next, Giglio guides the reader to an understanding of the good fatherly qualities of God. He acknowledges some people will ask, If God is so good, why doesn’t He stop evil? In a paragraph worth repeating, he responds to this question:
I think the answer is because the moment He steps in and removes all the collateral damage of this broken world from ever happening again, that will mark the instant life on earth is over. And in that moment the lost will be lost forever and many whom God wanted to become sons and daughters will be separated from His arms. So, He waits and extends grace another day. And for twenty-four more hours, we are caught in the crossfire of a sin-shattered world. (p. 178)
Finally, he challenges readers that just as we tend to pick up the qualities of our parents, so we should “grow up like Dad,” our heavenly Father.
Although the book is only 235 pages, divided into 10 chapters, Giglio tends to repeat statements he has already made, which is normal for a public speaker like himself, but seems redundant when reading a book. Perhaps with more editing, he could have communicated just as well with fewer than 200 pages. Nevertheless, Giglio writes in a personal, encouraging style, based on solid Biblical interpretation, with many insightful illustrations. This book can be quite helpful to readers who struggle with the idea that God is a good Father.
DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this book from B&H Bloggers, but I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.
A History of the Modern Middle East by William L. Cleveland and Martin Bunton, 6th ed., (Westview Press, 2016).
This history does as the title promises, focusing more on the modern period of the Middle East, especially from the Ottoman Empire through 2015. The book covers the rise of ISIS but was written before the downfall of ISIS. It includes the Arab Spring of 2011, which Cleveland prefers to call the “Arab Uprisings.” It includes balanced discussions of areas from Turkey to Iran to the Arabian Peninsula to Egypt. It does not include neighboring countries such as the Sudan, North Africa or Afghanistan in the discussion, except where events there affect the Middle East proper, such as the Egyptian war in Sudan, the harboring of Osama bin Laden by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Arab uprisings that began in Tunisia and led to the downfall of Libya’s dictator, too.
The book gives much attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is appropriate, as well as thorough coverage of the Kurdish problem of being a people without a homeland.
Perhaps due to his focus on the modern period, Cleveland passes over the Crusades with barely a mention, which I found peculiar, since modern Arabs like Osama bin Laden referred to Christians as the “Crusaders.”
While Cleveland strives to present a balanced report of both the positive and negative traits of each people and each personality, he appears to have certain biases. He clearly is sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians verses the Jews, and is favorable to the Muslim worldview (for example, he blames Islam’s low view of women on the influences of the cultures neighboring the Arabs, and refers to the Muslim Brotherhood as “moderate”). Nevertheless, he does a good job of explaining the various sectarian and ethnic groups, such as the Sunni and Shi’a, and minority groups like Arab Christians, Assyrians, Yazidis, Druze, Alawites, etc.
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Are you from Mississippi? Then you should know the following:
- A “pack of Nabs,” is a package of crackers (as in “Nabisco”) in a wrapper.
- Kosciusko is pronounced Causey-ES-ko.
- When you need a shopping cart at Wal-Mart, you ask for a “buggy.”
- When you say you’re “fixin’ to git a coke,” you may be about to purchase a Pepsi, and if you’re “fixin’ to cut out the light,” you are about to turn off the light switch.
- Biloxi is pronounced bill-UX-ee. If you say bill-OX-ee, you are a Yankee.
- When you’re going to visit your parents, you say, “I’m gonna see mom and ’em.”
- The noon meal is dinner, especially if it is on Sunday at mom and ’ems.
- When you see a mother pushing a baby stroller, you tell her she has “precious cargo.”
- Saucier is pronounced SO-sher, but Gautier is pronounced GO-shay.
- You love to eat fried catfish with hush puppies and ketchup.
- Pecan is pronounced puh-CAHN. (If you say PEE-can, you are either a Yankee or from southern Georgia.)
- You take a pecan pie to dinner on the grounds at church after revival meeting, and to the family meal at church after a funeral, and to mom and ’ems for Sunday dinner.
- BONUS: You pronounce it: Miss-IPPI.
Over the years, I and guest writers have posted several articles on this blog dealing with the subject of grief. Here is a list of them, for your reference:
“How do I deal with the suicide of someone I love?” https://bobrogers.me/2017/01/11/how-do-i-deal-with-the-suicide-of-someone-i-love/
“20 Sayings that Do Not Bring Comfort” by Jan Moore https://bobrogers.me/2015/06/26/guest-blog-20-sayings-that-do-not-bring-comfort/
“Expressing Sympathy During the Holidays” by Suzie Kolber https://bobrogers.me/2014/11/22/guest-blog-post-expressing-sympathy-during-the-holidays/
“What a hospital chaplain learned about ICU waiting when his own father died” by Brian Williamson https://bobrogers.me/2016/10/31/guest-post-what-a-hospital-chaplain-learned-about-icu-waiting-when-his-own-father-died/
Book review: “When Will I Stop Hurting? Dealing with a Recent Death” https://bobrogers.me/2013/11/19/book-review-when-will-i-stop-hurting-dealing-with-a-recent-death/
Copyright by Bob Rogers, Th.D.
The Romans were a powerful people for over a thousand years. However, it was a slow process for Rome to become a powerful nation. They won a 70-year off and on battle against the walled Etruscan city of Veii, only ten miles to the north, finally capturing it in 396 B.C. Here are three lessons for battle that they learned, that would make them a victorious military power for centuries. Many of these lessons are useful today:
Lesson 1: Learn from defeat.
The Gallic Sack of Rome about 387 B.C. shocked them, when wild warriors from Gaul swept down from the Po Valley, burned and looted the city. After paying the Gallic army to leave, they copied the walls of Veii, and built a wall around Rome.
They fought three wars with the Samnites, who inhabited the Apennines Mountains in central Italy, and lost major battles to them because the phalanx didn’t work well in the mountains, but they learned how to fight different ways in the mountains.
What defeats have you suffered in life? How can you learn from them?
Lesson 2: Divide and conquer.
Although strategically located, the Romans were not the largest or most powerful people in Italy in their early years. But Romans were well organized and united, able to slowly “divide and conquer” the rest of Italy, mainly because the other people groups were not united. For example, the Etruscan cities were totally independent of one another, so the other cities didn’t help Veii, allowing Rome to capture them. They often played one group against another, as when they made a peace treaty with Carthage and allowed them to oppose the Greeks in Sicily, then after Rome defeated the Greeks, Rome turned against Carthage.
This strategy is manipulative and unethical when done with allies and friends. However, the “divide and conquer” strategy has its usefulness with opponents and enemies. If you have multiple opponents or problems, instead of taking all of them on, which ones could you defeat first, and then move on to the next? What ways can you let them work against each other?
Lesson 3: Make your enemies your friends.
When they defeated the Latins, Rome made them their allies, eventually merging with them. They later did the same with other groups in Italy that they conquered, including Etruscans and Samnites and Gauls. As each became an ally, Rome became stronger and stronger. At last, they were strong enough to take on the Greek colonies in the south of Italy, and slowly they united all of Italy.
This strategy is much more ethical, and has many benefits. What common ground can you find with opponents, turning them into allies and friends?
(Dr. Rogers is an adjunct history professor for The Baptist College of Florida, where he has taught Roman History numerous times.)
Article copyright by Larry Robertson.
(Below is a guest column written by my friend Larry Robertson, senior pastor of Hilldale Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee.)
Perhaps you’ve heard by now that the New Orleans Saints got robbed of a chance to go to the Super Bowl, during the closing moments of the NFC Championship Game on January 20, 2019. Even the NFL admits that pass interference should’ve been called on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman and that the call would’ve most likely led to the win for the Saints…and a trip to the Super Bowl. But after the Rams player virtually assaulted Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis at a critical point in the game, no yellow flag was thrown.
This is not opinion; it’s a verifiable fact. Robey-Coleman even admits that the refs missed the call. But, per league rules, judgment calls like pass interference are not subject to video review.
Life’s not fair.
That’s one of the most basic life lessons that parents should teach their children, because they’re going to experience it soon enough on their own. At least if you’re expecting it (as much as you can expect the unexpected), the reality of it all won’t knock the breath out of you when you get kicked in the gut.
Life’s not fair.
In Genesis 39, Joseph was falsely accused of sexual assault by his employer’s wife but only because he refused her relentless sexual advances. Joseph did the right thing. Yet he was thrown into prison by his employer, Potiphar, who understandably believed his wife’s false narrative.
Life’s not fair.
“…But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him…” (Genesis 39:20-21). Life’s not fair; that’s true. But the LORD is faithful: He’s faithful in His presence…He’s faithful in His providence…He’s faithful in His promises.
I really believe that one reason some folk “lose faith” is that they mistakenly think that God’s will is always to manipulate circumstances for people of faith so that they get to eat cotton candy while riding unicorns through rainbows. And certainly no one will ever be able to push you down without a penalty! But that’s as false a narrative as Potiphar’s wife’s.
Read Romans 8:31-39. Read the list of hardships that Paul detailed. Take note, though, of verse 37. “…in all these things we are more than conquerors…” Not “in THE ABSENCE OF all these things,” but “IN all these things.”
Listen, life’s not fair. But the LORD is faithful. So, count on that…
In case you missed them, here are the top five blog posts that I wrote in 2018, in order of how many reads they received. Click on each link to read the post:
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken—at least many people do. Gyms see an influx of new members in January who don’t make it to February. Diet Coke sales rise, and new Bibles are purchased and read by people who often don’t make it past Leviticus.
So, how can we keep our New Year’s resolutions? Henry and Richard Blackaby give wise advice about New Year’s resolutions in the January 1 devotional of their book, Experiencing God Day by Day: “Jesus does not need your resolutions, your recommitments, or your promises to try harder this year. If your resolve to obey God last year did not help you to be faithful, it will not make you successful this year. Jesus asks for your love. If you truly love Him, your service for Him in the new year will be of the quality that He desires.”
Yes! That’s the key to keeping New Year’s resolutions: love. If I am motivated by duty or guilt, I will eventually get weary and quit. But if I am motivated by love, I will experience change, because love changes my heart.
God so loved me that He sent Jesus to save me when I believe (John 3:16). When I respond in love, look at what He makes new:
*In Christ, I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17),
*I enjoy the spiritual new birth by faith (1 Peter 1:3).
*God makes a new covenant with me (Jeremiah 31:31).
*He puts a new heart and new spirit in me (Ezekiel 36:26).
*He puts a new song in my mouth (Psalm 40:3).
*He moves me to put on a new self (Colossians 3:10).
*He moves me to obey the new commandment of love (John 13:34).
*I have the new name (Revelation 2:17) of “Christian.”
*One day I will enter the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1).
*There God makes everything new (Revelation 21:4).
How about you? What’s new for you in the New Year? Why not start with a new heart for God, and love like God loves?
(Pictured above: Pakistani Christian mother Asia Bibi, and two of her children. Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy but is still in danger for her life.)
As the year comes to a close, let us look back with at the top religious news events of 2018. Here are seven of the top events:
*The Death of Billy Graham. Graham was the most prominent Christian of the 20th century, having preached the gospel to more people than any other person in history. He died on February 21 at age 99. How thankful we are that he ended well, faithful to the end.
*Bill Hybels steps down. Hybels was pastor of the Chicago-area megachurch, Willow Creek Community Church. He has been influential in his books and “seeker-sensitive” approach to church growth. Sadly, he was forced into early retirement on April 10 when the Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today published accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment. How we need to pray for healing for the victims, and repentance and restoration for Hybels.
*Paige Patterson is fired. Patterson was dismissed and then formally fired in June as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, the world’s largest seminary, by the trustees. He had been accused covering up two separate instances of rape on seminary campuses where he was president, and of insensitive remarks appearing to excuse domestic violence. Patterson was one of the architects of the “conservative resurgence” in the Southern Baptist Convention that turned the nation’s largest Protestant denomination in a more conservative direction in the 1980s. This event was sadly reminiscent of Pastor Hybels and calls us to more prayer to always guard against sin.
*Supreme Court rules in favor of a Christian baker. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Jack Phillips, a Christian Baker in Colorado who refused, on religious grounds, to make a cake celebrating a gay wedding. The ruling was specific to his case, saying the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was biased against Phillips. Although it did not establish an open door for Christian businesses to make conscientious objection to endorsing morally objectionable messages, it may have cracked the door open for such a ruling in the future.
*Pastor Brunson freed by Turkey. Andrew Brunson, a Presbyterian missionary to Turkey for 23 years, was released from prison on October 21. He had been jailed in 2016, accused of supporting terrorism (specifically accused of supporting Kurdish rebels and Turkish opposition leader in exile, Fethullah Gulen). Brunson denied the accusations, and evidence was lacking. U.S. President Donald Trump put pressure on Turkey for the release, and Christians around the world prayed for him. His release was cause for rejoicing and thanks for answered prayer.
*Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. Christians joined with Jews in mourning a horrific massacre in a place of worship, as a gunman killed 11 Jewish worshipers and wounded six others at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 27. The shooter, whom I will not dignify by naming, said, “I just want to kill Jews.” What a reminder to pray against hate, specifically anti-Semitism, which has been a blot on the history of Christianity, and does not reflect our Savior, who was Himself a Jew, of course.
*The acquittal of Asia Bibi in Pakistan. Asia Bibi is a mother of five, the only Christian in her village. In 2009 she had a disagreement with Muslim co-workers over sharing water, and they accused her of blasphemy against Islam. In Pakistan, blasphemy carries a death penalty, and the law is often used as a weapon to persecute Christians. The Pakistani Supreme Court showed great courage in acquitting Bibi, as it was under enormous public pressure to rule against her, despite there being no evidence. Sadly, despite the ruling and permission for her to leave the country for her safety, no nation has shown enough courage to give her exile. This calls for continual prayer in the New Year, and for efforts to convince our own nation to grant her exile.
I rarely do this in a book review, but I give five stars to The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, by Arthur Bennett. A former pastor, Darryl Craft, introduced me to this amazing book of prayers when he quoted it in worship. I decided to buy a copy and spend this year slowly reading them in morning devotions.
To say this is a popular, influential book is an understatement. First published in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1975, it has been through numerous printings in the U.K. and USA. Collected and edited by British author Arthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision contains over 200 prayers of Puritans such as Richard Baxter, David Brainerd, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, and Charles Spurgeon (whom Bennett calls “the last of the Puritans”). However, Arthur does not identify the authors of the individual prayers. The prayers are grouped by sections under ten subjects such as the Trinity, redemption, penitence, and service. The final section are a collection of morning and evening prayers for each day of the week. These prayers use poetic rhythm and repetition to deliver a powerful emotional punch. For example, the prayer “Spiritus Sanctus” (p. 27) begins, “O Holy Spirit, as the sun is full of light, the ocean full of water, Heaven full of glory, so may my heart be full of thee…” Others use poetic imagery, as the prayer “Humility in Service” (p. 178), which includes the line, “O bury my sins in the ocean of Jesus’ blood…”
Modern readers may find many of the prayers to be extremely self-deprecating and so full of humility that the reader appears too hard on himself. For example, “After Prayer” (p. 150), says, “Let me be as slow to forgive myself as thou art ready to forgive me.” I would question the spiritual healthiness of being slow to forgive oneself. Yet with that caution, modern culture has gone so far in the opposite direction, that most modern Christians could benefit from a healthy dose of feeling the heaviness of sin.
If you want to be inspired to pray with conviction, read this book, but read it slowly, to savor every morsel. Then read it again. That’s what I plan to do.
God the Father, who gave us Your Son,
What shall I render You for the gift of gifts?
Here is wonder of wonders:
He came down below to raise me above,
was born, like me that I might become like Him.
Here is love:
when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace, to raise me to Himself.
Here is power:
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated with the created.
Here is wisdom:
when I was undone, with no will to return to Him, and no intellect to devise recovery,
He came, God in flesh, to save me completely,
as man to die my death.
O God, as the watchful shepherds enlarge my mind,
to hear good news of great joy, and hearing to praise You,
Let me with Simeon clasp the newborn Child to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith.
In Him You have given me so much that heaven can give no more.
Adapted from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett.