Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Lord, I am surrounded by so many distractions, that it is hard to hear You.
I can hear the voices of men and women, the blather of a television, the beeping of an IV pump, the blaring of a car horn, but I cannot hear Your voice.
I can feel the summer sun beating down on my head, and the cold winter wind blowing in my face, but I don’t feel the fire of Your Spirit in my soul.
Lord, remind me that You are always here, even in the distractions. Help me to hear Your voice in the voices of people, the music playing in the streets, the thunder in the sky. Help me to feel You in the sun and rain and wind. But beyond this, help me squeeze in slithers of silence to concentrate on Your voice, and help me pause in periods of prayer to feel Your presence.
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Then the LORD came and stood, and called as at the other times: “Samuel! Samuel! And Samuel said, “Speak for Your servant is listening.” – 1 Samuel 3:10, NASB
Lord, Your servant is listeniing. Speak to me.
Speak to me through Your scriptures. Uplift me when I feel downcast, correct me when I wander from Your way.
Speak to me when I am quiet, alone in prayer and speak to me when I loudly sing Your praises with Your people.
Speak to me in the gentle voice of wind blowing the grass, the majestic voice of a tall pine tree, the thundering voice of a rainstorm.
Speak to me through the advice of a friend, complaint of a co-worker, and rebuke of an enemy.
Attune my ear to hear quickly and lull my lips to speak slowly, that I may be more like You.
Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
As Americans approach “herd immunity” against COVID-19 and are rarely wearing face masks anymore, I’ve been thinking what to do with all the extra ones lying around. I came up with a few ideas:
Eye cover for sleep. When I’m sleeping late or taking an afternoon nap, I can put it over my eyes instead of over my mouth, and presto! I have a sleep mask.
Protection against bad breath. A good surgical mask can really block out smells, so if I’m dealing with somebody with bad breath (theirs or my own), I might still come up with an excuse to wear it.
Mowing the grass. If I have grass allergies, I might still wear a face mask while mowing the lawn.
Making a quilt. Here’s my favorite idea. Give all the leftover masks to grandma, and let her make a quilt in memory of 2020.
Have you got any ideas? I’d love to hear in the comments below.
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Lord, why is there cancer? Why must a child die? Why is there pain and heartbreak? My God, why have You forsaken me? … Jesus, You asked the same question on the cross. It made no sense at the time for You to die as a young man. Yet the answer was in the question, for Your forsakenness brought our forgiveness. So Lord, even as we as raise our hands to heaven and cry out “Why?” we will also grasp the divine Hand who holds the answers to the question, and we will not let go, for we are trusting that one day we will know. Until that day, it is enough that we hold the Hand that holds the answers.
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
“Who will roll away the stone?” Mark 16:3
“Who will roll away the stone?” the women asked as they approached Jesus’ tomb. Their Savior had died, their hopes were gone, and their heads hang in despair as the question lingered in the air. Can you relate to that?
We have stones that need to be rolled away, too. Our way is blocked with giant stones with names like cancer and COVID-19, stones with names like debt and divorce, names like shame and sorrow, and the actual names of people like the crazy co-worker, the insane in-law, the nosy neighbor.
Like the women that first Easter Sunday morning, we too wonder, “Who will roll away the stone?”
In many ways, the message of Easter is like jazz music. Jazz music originated with African-American musicians in New Orleans around 1900, and it often expresses discordant notes of pain that are then resolved with the swing of sweet notes of joy.
Easter is like jazz music. The people loved Jesus for His compassion for the outcast, His inspiring teaching of love, and His healing of the sick. Imagine their despair when Jesus was arrested, flogged, spat upon, mocked with a purple robe and crown of thorns, beat upon the head, forced to carry His cross to Calvary, the Place of the Skull, and then the nails slammed through his hands and feet, and forced to hang there naked and suffering, No wonder Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” It’s bad enough when you and I feel forsaken by God, but here was the Son of God feeling forsaken by God! That despair was shared by Jesus’ disciples. The disciples were hiding out in a room, afraid for their future, fearing they would be next.
But that was on Friday. Very early on Sunday morning, everything changed. The stone was rolled away, an angel in white clothes had bright news, that although they came thinking they would see a dead corpse, instead they saw an empty tomb, because Jesus was crucified, but now He has risen! The One who had been nailed to a cross was now raised from the grave, the One who had been whipped was now being worshiped.
His story was also their story. The wondering women had their stone moved, the shamed Simon Peter discovered that his Savior was alive. Notice verse 7 says to tell the disciples “and Peter.” The frightened disciples became bold preachers of the gospel.
What a crazy change in three days! No wonder they were overwhelmed with emotion.
Verse 5 says they were “amazed” and “alarmed.” Verse 8 says “trembling” and “astonishment overwhelmed them” and that they were “afraid.”
That’s why I say Easter is like jazz— it moves from discord to resolution, from pain to joy, and it requires a certain mystery and faith. Somebody asked Louis Armstrong what jazz music was, and he said, “If you have to ask, you don’t know!”
But you can know the Easter jazz. You can believe in Jesus Christ. His story was their story and it can be your story and mine.
The apostle Paul put it this way in Ephesians 2:1, 4-6: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins… But God, who is rich and mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with Christ, even though you were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.”
Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:19-20, 51-52: “If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.”
Easter does not mean that we will no longer have problems. The music of our lives will continue to have bent notes and broken cords. But because of His resurrection, the discord will be resolved with the sweet sound of hope for all of us who believe.
What stones do you need to have rolled away? What hope do you need to hear? Shh! Listen closely. I think I hear Jesus playing jazz!
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Lord Jesus, You entered Jerusalem in triumph, receiving the praises of “Hosanna!” from the crowd. Then You cleansed the temple and healed the sick. When the priests challenged Your authority, You said scripture foretold praises from the children (Matthew 21:1-17). Lord Jesus, I am Your servant. I bow before You and recognize Your Lordship over my life. I give You praise, my God and my King! Heal me, change me, lead me.
Oh, Lord, when You came to Jerusalem, You cleansed the temple. Would You cleanse my heart today of all that displeases You?
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed so fervently, His sweat became like drops of blood, yet His disciples fell asleep. Jesus said, “Get up and pray, so that you won’t fall into temptation.” (Luke 22:46). Lord, may my prayer life be so strong that it weakens my temptation.
Lord Jesus, they stripped You naked, flogged You, slapped You, spat on You, mocked You, beat You on the head, forced You to carry Your cross to Your execution, nailed Your hands and feet to the cross, and when You died, they thrust a spear into Your side. Or did they? In truth, I should change the word “they” to “I”! Did not I do all of that to You? It is because of my sin that You suffered. I stripped You, I flogged You, I slapped You, I spat on You, I mocked You, I beat You, my sin caused You to carry Your cross and take the nails and spear for my forgiveness. Oh, Jesus, my heart gently lifts the crown of thorns from Your head, and with all my soul, I place a golden crown on Your bloodied brow, and I bow at Your nail-scarred feet.
Lord, when You died on the cross, You tore down the barrier between God and mankind. I am overwhelmed that Your grace has given me access by faith into the very presence of God. May I never take Your death for granted. As You died for me, I will live for You. (Mark 15:37-38)
Lord Jesus, You were mocked and crucified for my sins. I can never repay Your sacrifice, but I shall not be afraid to be mocked or punished for the sake of Your name. (Matthew 27:31)
Lord Jesus, from the cross You cried, ‘Into Your hands I entrust My spirit.” (Luke 23:46). Help me to pray that same prayer with my dying breath. Into Your hands I entrust my body, my soul, my spirit.
The resurrected Christ walked with two disciples to Emmaus, yet they did not recognize Him until he blessed and broke the bread. “Then their eyes were opened” (Luke 24:31), and they told others “how He was made know to them in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). Lord, open my eyes when I break the bread of communion. Remind me again how my sin made it necessary for Your body to be broken and Your blood to be shed. As I share the bread, may I share Your presence and grace with those around me.
I delivered the following address at the COVID-19 Candlelight Service service at Forrest General Hospital, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on March 11, 2021, marking the one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in Mississippi:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love… – Romans 8:35, 37-38, NLT.
We are here today to look back and remember, to look around in unity, and to look forward in hope.
We look back and remember. We look at our calendars, and we remember that one year ago today, the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Mississippi. We look back over that year, and remember those who died, those who
survived, their families and friends, and how all of us have been affected. Let us reflect back at how all of us have been changed, in ways often painful, but we are not defeated– “overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” So we light a candle to remember.
We look around in unity. We look around this room, look at our co-workers, look to our families and our community, and we see that we are standing together. We are all unique individuals, but we come together, because we have a
common calling to care for people. In a few minutes, we will light candles together. Let us look around and draw strength from one another. “Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.” So we light a candle in unity.
We look forward in hope. We look forward, just as the darkness is broken at dawn by the rising sun. In a few weeks, we will celebrate Easter, when we who are Christians celebrate the rising of the Son of God. We have many reasons for hope. Amazingly, in less than a year since the first case of COVID, there are now three vaccines available, the number of virus cases is declining, and look at us—we are still here. We have made it “through the valley of the shadow of death.” So we light a candle of hope.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. – Psalm 23:4, KJV
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
In late February 2021, Amazon suddenly stopped offering a bestselling book that had been published in 2018, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, by Ryan T. Anderson. You can find books that disagree with Anderson on Amazon, but his book is no longer available on the site (which controls 83% of the book market). Amazon still sells books on anarchy or how to make a bomb, as well as Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but not Anderson’s book, which was is a scholarly, carefully researched work, written with a compassionate, gracious tone—it just challenges the liberal narrative.
Unless your head has been in a hole, you know that the liberal “cancel culture” has been banning and silencing conservative books, videos, and social media posts, while promoting liberal views. This is causing many conservatives to ask, “Do I have other alternatives to liberal big tech and liberal media?” The answer is yes! Below I offer some suggested alternatives, but with a caution. Those of us who are followers of Christ are “not of the world” (John 17:16), yet at the same time, we are “sent into the world” (John 17:18). Thus, even as I recommend using these alternatives, I would suggest that we continue to be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-14) in the public square, especially on Facebook and Twitter, as much as possible.
Alternative to Amazon: Barnes and Noble. Barnes and Noble still offers Anderson’s book, and since they are the biggest book competitor to Amazon, it puts the most pressure on Amazon. If you really feel strongly about it, you could cancel your Amazon Prime membership, and tell them why. You may also want to buy books directly from the publisher.
Alternative to Google: DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo is an excellent search engine, but unlike Google, it does not suppress conservative information, and it does not violate your privacy by compiling information about you. I have compared the two search engines several times, and found conservative information is often buried by Google several pages later, but conservative information is fairly presented by DuckDuckGo.
Alternative to Facebook: MeWe. MeWe is a social media platform that is gaining millions of new users every week. It operates in ways similar to Facebook, with a huge difference: MeWe protects your privacy and does not collect information on you, nor sell ads. It also doesn’t delete conservative political posts, although it will delete abusive and obscene posts. It makes money by offering a premium version for a few dollars a month.
Alternative to Twitter: Parler. Parler was in the news recently when Amazon stopped hosting its site with claims that Parler allowed violet threats against the government, but Parler is back online now, although it is till struggling to function. Parler users tend to be highly political and very conservative, so be aware.
Alternative to the Associated Press: World magazine. World is a Christian news source, that reports news objectively, and then takes an in-depth look into issues from a biblical perspective. Its website www.wng.org is free, and offers daily news reports, and also gives an informative free news podcast, “The World and Everything In it.”
Alternative to Snopes: CheckYourFact.com. Snopes is the most popular site for checking rumors and conspiracy theories, but it has been tainted by taking a liberal slant numerous times, notably it has labeled as “false” articles by the conservative Christian satire website, Babylon Bee, even though the articles were obviously satire. CheckYourFact.com is owned by the conservative Daily Caller, but it is independent of The Daily Caller, and is certified by the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN).
Alternative to The Onion: The Babylon Bee. Speaking of satire, The Onion is the most famous satire website, but the stings from The Babylon Bee have generated so much attention that Facebook and Snopes have labeled some of its satire as false in ways that remove it from being viewed. You may want to search for it on DuckDuckGo, and check it out for yourself.
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
When I served as a Baptist pastor in Rincon, Georgia, I had the unique experience of putting on a white wig and an old robe borrowed from a Methodist, to give a dramatic presentation of the founding pastor of the oldest Lutheran Church in North America. The historic pastor’s name was Johann Boltzius, and his church was Jerusalem Lutheran Church, founded in 1734 in the Ebenezer Community in Effingham County, Georgia, some 30 miles north of Savannah.
School children came from all over Georgia to the retreat center at Ebenezer to learn Georgia history. They visited Savannah, and they also came to the old Jerusalem Lutheran Church, whose sanctuary was built in 1769, to hear me tell the story, in costume, of Boltzius who served a congregation that fled to the New World from Salzburg, Austria, in search of religious freedom.
After the presentation, students were given an opportunity to ask “Pastor Boltzius” questions. One day in March, a student asked me why it was so dark in the church. With a gleam in my eye, I explained that it was Lent, a season in which members of that church remembered Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. Members of the church fasted, prayed, and thought of other ways to make sacrifices in memory of Jesus, and during this time, they kept the window shutters closed. In fact, on Good Friday, they came into the church and sang songs about Jesus’ death, and then blew out all of the candles and went home in total darkness. The students reflected on that quietly, and I paused. Then I waved my hand at the shutters and shouted, “But on Easter Sunday morning, they threw open the shutters, let the light in, and celebrated, because Jesus is alive!”
Whether or not your church observes the tradition of Lent, it is an important reminder of how any Christian can get ready for Easter, by first reflecting on the suffering of Christ. I encourage you to read the story of the crucifixion from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Spend time alone, silent, reflecting on it. Fast and pray. Think about your own sin, your own struggles, your own sorrows, and how the suffering of Christ forgives, redeems and renews you. Meditate on the dark, and the light will brighten you more when it comes. Like that church in Georgia that threw open their shutters, if we will remember how dark it was when Christ died, we will appreciate all the more how glorious it was that He arose!
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Everybody has to deal with rejection. Even Jesus Christ was rejected by his hometown of Nazareth. They didn’t like it when He declared His Messianic mission would include Gentiles, so they tried to throw him off the local cliff (see Luke 4:23-29).
In one of the greatest face-to-face confrontations in history, Jesus faced their rejection and “passed right through the crowd and went on His way” (Luke 4:30). That’s how He handled it, how do we?
Let’s be clear about something. You and I are not Jesus, so we first need to examine our own actions and motives in the light of scripture, to make sure our rejection isn’t a deserved rebuke for ungodly behavior. Peter writes, that if we are ridiculed “for the name of Christ” we are blessed, yet cautions “let none of you sufer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler” (1 Peter 4:15-16). Most of us would be okay if he hadn’t added “meddler.” So before anything else, let’s take an honest look at why we are rejected.
If, after taking an honest look at ourselves, we know that our rejection is because we have lived for Christ, and done so with integrity, then what? Scripture tells us three ways that Christians can face rejection: rejoice, remember and rely.
- Rejoice (Matthew 5:10-12). Jesus concluded the “Beatitudes” by telling His followers that when we are rejected, we should rejoice: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you becaue of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” We naturally want to get angry, defensive, or feel hurt, but Jesus tells us we should rejoice, because it shows we are on the right side! The early apostles did exactly that! When the Jewish Sanhedrin ordered them not to preach about Jesus, they left, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name” (Acts 5:41).
- Remember (John 15:19-21). Jesus reminded His disciples, “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, because I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” So whenever we are rejected, we don’t need to be surprised; we should remember that we were told to expect that it comes with the territory.
- Rely (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). The Apostle Paul is a great role model for handling persecution. He explained how it taught him to rely on God: “We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed– beyond our strength– so that we even despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again.”
Tony Evans says that whenever somebody rejects him because of the color of his skin, he remembers who he is in Christ. God says he is a child of the king. Thus, if they reject him, they are refusing royal blood in their presence. What a good example for us when people reject us because of our faith. Remembering that, we can rely on God, and rejoice!
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
When I was in the seventh grade, Dad was stationed at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York, in order to attend a nine-month Army Chaplain’s School. Almost every family on the post was there because of a chaplain attending the school. That meant all of the kids were “preacher’s kids,” and all of the families were new, because we would be transferred after a year and a whole new group would come the following school year. The school year was 1970-71. We could see the twin towers of the original World Trade Center under construction across the Hudson River. I went to Public School 104, which was in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood. It was a good school, with strict discipline and excellent academics.
Soon after school started that fall, we learned that on Wednesday afternoons they had “release time.” This was when students got out of school early and could go to their house of worship for religious education, if they wished. On that first Wednesday, all of us Protestant chaplains’ kids, being brand new, simply followed our Catholic friends down the street to their church and went to catechism. Then we returned to school in time to catch the Army bus back to Fort Hamilton.
Needless to say, the phones were ringing off the hook that night when we started telling our parents what kind of notebooks the nuns wanted us to buy for catechism. It only took one week for those chaplains and spouses to organize a Protestant religious education class for us to attend.
But what really got some parents rattled was what happened to my little sister Nancy and some of her friends during their first “release time.” Nancy, who was in second grade, and a few other Protestant chaplains’ daughters, went to the Catholic class but they missed the bus ride home. Their parents had the military police frantically searching the streets of New York for them. Imagine: little girls from places like Kansas, Texas and Mississippi, all lost on the streets of Brooklyn! When the girls were found, they didn’t know they had been lost.
Jesus said that he came to seek and save people who were lost (Luke 19:10). He told parables about a lost sheep, lost coin, and lost (prodigal) son, to illustrate how God goes to great lengths to find people (see Luke 15). Many don’t even know they are lost.
Ironically, my sister Nancy now lives in Brooklyn. She lives there with her husband Alex, and she rides the subway like a native. She doesn’t get lost there anymore; it’s her home. Likewise, when people turn to faith in Christ, they too are no longer lost. Like my sister, they have found their home at last.
(This story will be part of my upcoming book about taking a humorous yet serious look at the Christian life, called, Standing by the Wrong Graveside.)
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
I’ll admit it, some people have bad experiences with a church. Here are the top ten signs you’re in a bad church:
10. The church bus has gun racks.
9. Church staff: senior pastor, associate pator, socio-pastor.
8. The town gossip is the prayer coordinator.
7. Church sign says, “Do you know what Hell is? Come hear our preacher.”
6. Choir wears leather robes.
5. During greeting time, people take turns staring at you.
4. Karaoke worship time.
3. Ushers ask, “Smoking or non-smoking?”
2. Only song the organist knows: “We Shall Not Be Moved.”
- The pastor doesn’t want to come, but his wife makes him attend.
If your church is that bad, you might want to look for another church. But the fact is, that there is no perfect church, because the church is made up of imperfect people. The phrase the Bible uses to describe us is “sinners saved by grace.” So before you give up completely on the church, remember this: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25, ESV). If Jesus considered the church worth dying for, then we ought to consider the church worth living for.
An unknown poet put it well:
“If you should find the perfect church, without fault or smear
For goodness sake, don’t join that church, you’d spoil the atmosphere.
But since no perfect church exists, made of perfect men,
Let’s cease on looking for that church, and love the one we’re in.”
(This article will be part of my upcoming book about taking a humorous yet serious look at the Christian life, called, Standing by the Wrong Graveside.)
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Next to the “Hallelujah Chorus,” one of the most familiar pieces from George Frederic Handel’s “Messiah,” is the song, “For Unto Us a Child Is Born.” The melody proclaims each of the titles of the Christ from Isaiah 9:6, like royal trumpet blasts for each phrase: “Wonderful! Counselor! The Mighty God! The Everlasting Father! The Prince of Peace!”
If we take time to reflect on what these joyous trumpet blasts of isaiah 9:6 mean, we can experience a musical interlude and transition to a gentle harp, reassuring our souls. I wrote it in poetic form, like this:
As Wonderful Counselor, Christ takes away our gloom.
As Mighty God, Christ takes away our doom.
As Everlasting Father, Christ adopts believers, all.
As Prince of Peace, Christ takes down the wall.
May these truths harmonize with your heart and bring you great comfort and joy this Christmas Day and every day.