We carry two passports. With one we submit to our government. With the other we submit to the King. Jesus made that clear when religious leaders tried to trap him: “Render to Caesar… and to God.. ”(Mark 12:17). The 2nd has priority: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), a statement from the disciples to religious authorities. Paul and Peter were good citizens. Paul used his citizenship to his advantage. He carried a Roman passport, gained from birth, that meant protection by the state. Honor was given even to a godless emperor.

A 2nd passport allows Christians  to live without fear. We are not subject to the worries of those who only carry one passport and panic with things like a life-threatening virus. As Jesus said to Pilate, struggling to release him but afraid of the mob, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). 

People with only one passport do not know that our enemy is not the virus. So when Cameron told me he was 80% sure that he had it, I asked if he was afraid. He answered, “I am quite calm.” He could think of far greater fears, like coming against the King to whom he would give account for the way he lived. It isn’t easy for him and Shelby, 70% sure that she also has coronavirus, to think about leaving three children, but they know they are in the hands of a loving Father. 

When the government tells us to stop meeting in groups of five or more, we can do that. Two or three qualifies for church. It’s the body, not the building! The government according to Paul is the appointed protector: “For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:1-7). So if they bring in the National Guard to keep people from looting, we are grateful, not angry.

High-stress times. Trips planned for a year have been cancelled, and people are losing jobs. Decisions are made from the top down that are changing the way we live–every day. What are we to do? What Jesus did under threat of death–we stay calm. This, like 9-11, could change our lives radically. 

The end-times that Jesus and Paul spoke about will be far more stressful. This can get us ready for then. Let the Church rise up in the face of the unknown and let the known control our behavior–the love of a kind and all-powerful Father. When “then” happens, the government will flip out. A pagan world will be totally on board, and a beast will attempt to overtake the Lamb. Then the government will not be our friend.

I am 75, in the high-risk department. I would play it a little more risky, but my children want Karen and me around for a while, with number 15 grandchild due soon and no sign of slowing down. They have quarantined us in our home except for walks. Thank God for face-time! Read the sign on the front door and call us. We are inside praying for you to be strong and full of confidence, asking neighbors to say “yes” to Jesus and God to heal Cameron and Shelby. “Father, let revival come out of this and sweep a billion into the family–to give them a second passport!


This is our hour. We can either say, “What if…” and look ahead, or “If only…” and look back.

If only we could go to the wedding of Isaac in Florida. Such a wonderful time. Bummer!

If only we could keep on meeting as a church. Such wonderful things have been happening.

If only we could meet in person rather than over the phone. Not even close to fun.

If only he hadn’t gotten sick. Ruined all our plans.  Or…

  • What if God pours out His Spirit upon a praying church, and we see the largest ingathering the church has ever seen? Many are believing for a billion!
  • What if we are not gathering in groups of 50 or 500, but we gather in groups of two or three? Jesus still promises to be in our midst. We can call it church. So the government didn’t cancel church; they just sent it home. Wow! Great place to meet!
  • What if we chose not to be overcome by evil (a pandemic), but we overcome evil with good, as Romans 12:21 says? I can think of five or six ways that we could do that. You could too. Here’s one: put a big sign on your window that says, “Church–welcome here Sunday at 10!”
  • What if the pandemic opens up opportunities to pray for friends who are visibly afraid?

So–time to shine, Saints!  We are not being shut down. We are rising up!

“The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18). 

“Arise shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising”(Isaiah 60:1-3).

“A man’s wisdom makes his face shine” (Ecclesiastes 8:1). 

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). 

“Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43).“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14,15). Thanks, Gary Gilbertson for giving me this idea.



Okay, one more negative, and potentially the hardest, one that could have sent people like us away in disgust: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs” (v. 26). What is he? A racist? Is he calling her a dog? Sure sounds like it. But instead of turning and stomping away with her feelings hurt and her daughter still demonized, she said in effect, “That’s right. How about letting this dog have just a few crumbs? It wouldn’t take much.” What incredible persistence. Humble people are not easily offended, while overly sensitive people take up their offense and others as well. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11). When God offends us, when He disappoints us by not doing what we need, our wounded hearts can close themselves to His love. But not this woman.

Jesus cannot but respond to her astounding endurance: “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted” (v. 28). God is not reluctant. He simply asks people to press in. We want to say, “If it be your will,” which matches our passive stance. Our faith easily drifts into fatalism. It resigns itself to an inferior situation rather than persisting and rising to a greater possibility. Faith, on the other hand, grabs on and does not let go. It is not demanding God, but it is seeking Him in a way that He wants us to. He is called “the rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). The Canaanite went after Jesus in a way few Jews ever did—and Jesus memorialized her faith. 

He didn’t say, “Woman, great is your persistence.” He called her perseverance faith. Her humility and faith translated into boldness, and her little child had a powerful mother to thank for her deliverance. Most would have been gone after the first two rebuffs. She stuck around for four—and received what she came for.

The cause of demonic assault upon children sometimes rests with a parent. Perhaps she took responsibility for the attack, so she also took responsibility for the release, which Jesus granted because she would not back down. The writer of Hebrews said that “through faith and patience” we inherit the promises of God (Heb. 6:12).

Think of the lesson the disciples learned. The woman they wanted to send away was held up for her great faith. Theirs—not so great. Had they been in charge, the daughter would have remained under the power of the devil. How tragic when we allow personal irritations to rule over the will of God, and people who need deliverance must try elsewhere because of our pettiness.

We find only one person in the Gospels whose faith Jesus called “great,” this Gentile woman. She recognized Jesus as one capable of delivering her child even from a distance, apparently not even bringing her child along. And an unnamed woman of the wrong race gives us a powerful message: “Never give up—never, never, never give up!”


Jesus once told a story about a widow who persevered and received what she needed. It came from a judge who wasn’t inclined to help her. Jesus told it so that we would  “always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). He concluded the parable by asking this troublesome question: “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (v. 8). Jesus saw many quitting as end-time pressures escalated. He was spelling faith p-e-r-s-I-s-t-e-n-c-e, and few things gave Him more encouragement than seeing it lived out. Two things moved Him deeply—great faith and the lack of it. He told a would-be disciple who had competing priorities, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). 

He illustrated persistence—faith for the long haul—through the host who is surprised (and food-less) by a midnight guest and goes next door. He is rebuffed by his friend who says: “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything” (Luke 11:7). Sounds like a ‘no’ to me. Wouldn’t that have sent you away? Not the desperate inquirer. He was not prepared to accept anything but a positive answer—and he walked away with the bread. 

I was preparing to speak to a group of pastors in Finland. As I prayed I saw a picture of people throwing in the towel. So before the message, I asked ministers to stand who had considered quitting within the last few weeks—and ten rose. I wasn’t expecting that kind of response. Pressures that did not let up made them look at their alternatives.

I ran a few marathons in my younger days. On the race that I had trained for the least, my mind kept thinking of other things I would rather be doing, like sitting in a jacuzzi. Winning the mental battle rivaled the physical pain. Giving up looked like a good option.

Now to an example of persistence that deeply impressed Jesus. He had just experienced another unsettling encounter with the religious leadership. He withdrew to the north of Galilee for a retreat with His disciples. “He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it” (Mark 7:24), but it usually didn’t work for the Son of Man to travel incognito. “A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession’” (Matt. 15:22). She properly identified Him not only as “Lord,” but this non-Jew called Him the “Son of David.” The Jesus we know is moved by the faith of parents on behalf of their children who struggle, especially when the cause is rooted in the arch-enemy of Christ, and especially when we are told that it is a little girl, hopelessly demonized (7:25). We expect Jesus to respond quickly. Every instance in the Gospels shows Jesus responding to such a request—but this one. Matthew says that “Jesus did not answer a word” (v. 23). Not a glance. Not a knowing nod that could say, “I am thinking about it.” Not a polite, “I’ll be with you in a moment.” Nothing. Ouch. (Part 2 & 3 coming).


I mentored a college student who lived in our home for a couple years. We had many talks while laying bricks for landscaping or putting chips along the path we got from tree trimmers in our neighborhood. We even talked about starting a business called “Chips and Bricks!” He is now an assistant pastor, and I still get to mentor him a bit when questions come up about ministry. 


“We have had several accidents/deaths happen in the past month in our church. It has caused the senior pastor and me to be running around to different families, funerals and visitations. I am not against these things, but I wonder how much the pastor should be doing. I could see burnout coming by trying and take care of everyone’s emergency while trying to write a sermon and lead a church. It feels like the sermon and the leading are taking a back seat to other issues, because my boss is rushing off to the latest disaster. How did you handle this at your church? Did you have elders doing that or did you try to do everything yourself?


I believe strongly in the plurality of elders. As pastor, I was the lead elder. I once visited Marie in the hospital. She said to me, “You didn’t have to come. Les was already here.” Les was a “layman” (we never used that word) who had a gift of caring for people. Just about everyone in the congregation knew that. The more that leaders develop leaders (in their own sphere of gifting), the less they have to do it all. Proverbs says that our gifts make room for us and bring us before great people (18:16). ” Gift-oriented ministry means that we take seriously what God has put in all people!

Peter, an especially strong leader, wrote, “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace; whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies” (1 Peter 4:10,11). And Paul said, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, with liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8).

Three things are clear in the New Testament:

  1. I got gifts; you got gifts. All God’s chil’en got gifts.
  2. One primary assignment of leaders is helping people discover and walk in their gifts.
  3. Leaders who do this effectively are more equipped to do what they are called to do–lead and love. Imagine the church where this is fully happening. I want to be a part of that church!!


School is in session 24-7.  Life is a test, an opportunity to choose God’s way rather than the way of bitterness, unforgiveness, or revenge.  Everything is useful for us, especially the difficult things, because they bring tension, which can produce growth.  We don’t have the right to be wounded when we are afflicted—we have the right to be healed. If you are stabbed and don’t feel it—congratulations; you are dead.  We want Christ-likeness in our lives, but we, like Peter, sometimes prefer the short cut, the pain-free options. There aren’t any. No skipping classes, no mail-order degrees.

We are not responsible for what people do to us, but we are responsible for our responses.  And according to author Charles Swindoll, life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it.  You’ve heard it before–God is more concerned about what happens in us than what happens to us.  He is teaching us how to respond to Him rather than react to others.  He is after character, Christ-likeness. That is what will cause the world to pay attention.  The world is looking on and says, “See how they hit one another.” We’re not that impressive–yet.

What kind of person can return good for evil?  One who is…

  • secure in the love of God.
  • filled with the Spirit of grace.  Under the law people were permitted to get even up to a tooth for a tooth. Grace calls us to get good rather than get even.
  • quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19).
  • caring enough to know the effect of the cause, so doesn’t react to their reaction, knowing the need behind the deed and is therefore merciful.

What kind of person cannot respond in a godly manner to wrong?  Perhaps one who is…

  • too insecure to overlook an offense (Colossians 3:13).
  • wounded and not healed and therefore defensive rather than responsive.
  • full of jealousy or personal ambition (James 3:14,16).

What happens if we react to people rather than responding to God?

We stir up more anger. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).  Reacting to evil intensifies evil. Brace yourself!

We are defiled.  Jesus made clear that we are not defiled by what goes in but by what comes out (Mark 7:17-23).  Unkindness defiles us, regardless of what has been done to us. It is not illegal to suffer wrong, but it is illegal to respond wrongly.

We frustrate the grace of God.  He wants to pour out grace upon us, but if we react in our carnal nature, we shut off heaven’s supply, which is given to the lowly.

We play God.  “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:  ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). We try to pay people back because we want to make sure they get what is coming to them. And justice wins over mercy. God is more just than we are, and He will see that justice is carried out.  He doesn’t like it when we assume the prerogatives of deity. He says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20,21).

What happens if we respond in a Christ-like fashion? (Find out in Part 3).


The same God who engineered the death of Jesus is working on ours.  His highest goal is that we are “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). He gives us opportunities to die—through people who misunderstand us, irritate us, criticize us, ignore us.  The problem–we are more accustomed to reacting to people than responding to God. So like a good teacher, He continues to design tests to teach us how to respond. The job of irritable people is to grow fruit in our lives.  We don’t develop mercy by having people show us kindness. It is when others are unkind and we respond with the opposite spirit that good fruit is produced. If it’s easy to love someone, there’s no growth. And if we only love those who love us and not our enemies, Jesus says, “What credit is that to you?” (Luke 6:34).

Testing means tension.  We often interpret tension as a sign that something is wrong.  In fact, it is a sign that something is at work. Tension is required to grow spiritual fruit, because “the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17). A civil war takes place within us when we are tested to respond in the opposite spirit, to return bad with good. Not our normal way of dealing with wrong.  Justice kicks in when we are treated unkindly, and we feel the need to pay people back. Words and actions come to mind, and keeping them under control often proves difficult. But when the Spirit wins over the carnal nature, good fruit is developed.  

Because God is a good Father training His children for maturity, as a friend says, “He allows with his wisdom what He could prevent with His sovereignty.”  Nothing is incidental or accidental with God on the throne. He is orchestrating our growth and allows tension so we can go deeper. He is intentional and purposeful about everything.  He wants us to come to the place where we are dead to ourselves. When that happens, the life of Christ will flow out of us powerfully. What is God asking you to die to today? Think about it–it’s hard to offend a dead man. Tell a guy in a casket that you can’t stand his blue suit and ugly pink tie, and it hardly affects him.

The life of the Spirit is about choices, right decisions, lots of them, like getting up a little earlier, stepping out a little more, obeying more quickly, keeping our mouths shut when tempted to complain:  “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5). “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it…If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:12, 13b).  You can be filled with the Spirit in a moment, but you still need to make right choices—a long line of them. If you sow to the Spirit, expect a good harvest next spring. (Part 2 coming).


Karen just left for a cruise with her three siblings, paid for by her parents who are also going (at 95 and 94). She called to inform me that her carry-on suitcase that she checked had been lost. Then the airlines reported by scanning that it had come down to baggage claim and must have been stolen. Airline personnel said it happens to one in 500 bags!! Some people go to baggage claim specifically to steal. Karen will be reimbursed for losses, including jewelry I bought for her in Brazil and Prague. She put her valuables in the carry-on and the meds she was taking. VERY unsettling as you can imagine.

I felt for her. What a way to start a cruise with her family, hit hard before the cruise ever started. So I called her the first night. They were on the ship, but it had not departed. I could tell she was having fun with her siblings, whom I could hear in the background, meeting up from different parts of the country. I asked her about the luggage. She had already dealt with it emotionally and chose to have a good time. I was proud of her for living above her circumstances rather than under. She could have been discouraged and down. Not in the slightest.

We hear people say, “Under the circumstances, I am doing okay.” Why would we want to live under our circumstances? Not a good place to land.  Way to go, Karen!! Take it as a good lesson. Things that could rob us of joy don’t need to. We choose not to give any person or circumstance the power to make us miserable!! People sadly do it all the time–at the workplace with a grouchy boss, in a marriage with an unforgiving spouse, on our block with a neighbor who refuses to turn down his blasting radio. We can understand why horrendous circumstances could rob people of joy and peace. I am just saying that it doesn’t need to.

Are people getting you down? Are circumstances taking away your joy? Are we to pretend that we are happy when we are not? Paul tells us, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thess. 5:15-18). Yeah, who’s talking?? I’ll tell you–a man who was stoned, left for dead, run out of town often, physically and emotionally abused many times, shipwrecked, thrown in jail for years at a time. He can talk! Might be a good idea to listen. It worked for Karen–and it will work for you!


“It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them” (Matthew 25:14).  The question Jesus will ask when he returns is this: “What did you do with what I gave you?” We inherited the devil’s grasp, not the king’s release.  We need a conversion of the heart, so that rather than being owners we are stewards. When I once shared this with my children, nine-year old Karis, said, “What we have is not ours, it is God’s.” Right on, Karis!

Kendy and Joyce Parker took their stewardship literally.  We had been praying for a car because ours was getting old.  The Monday after our van died Joyce showed up at our home and said, “We feel led to give you our van.”  What was theirs became ours! Amazingly, even the Creator who owns it all does not say, “That’s mine.” He is pictured in the parable of the prodigal son as a good father who says, “All that is mine is yours.”  And Jesus, the heir of all, shares his inheritance with his family. The church takes its cue from the head and says, “Whatever you need from me is yours.”

When my wife’s niece moved from Chicago to Seattle, they had a sale, then gave the money to the poor.  Not that they were rich; they just have a heart for needy people. Those who live this way have a power that owners know nothing about, the power of love and release. A priest justified his indifference to the wounded man on the roadside, while an unlikely Samaritan could not pass by.  People like this are using their money to advance the kingdom, not their own cause. They are secure, because they have nothing to lose. They take risks because they are doing it for the King. They don’t go to bed worrying about the stock exchange; they think about the love of God and how well they are cared for. Capitalists can be insecure, because they stand to lose something, while the givers are always winning. Thieves can’t really enjoy their life, because they are trying too hard to find it.  The owners think they are enjoying themselves, but their self-love blocks the way to true joy. Stewards know about love. They give it away, and it is returned just as fast. They are the meek, and they inherit the earth. If you are an owner, pray for deliverance. Start giving away some accumulated goods, and seek the kingdom. Don’t assume if you are a Christian that you are a steward rather than an owner. Here’s a test:

  • What is more important, being comfortable or a comforter?
  • Have you given any big gifts lately?
  • How do you feel generally about victims?  Do you tend to be merciful or judgmental? Are you ever moved to help someone who has been victimized like our roadside friend in the Good Samaritan story?

Robber       What’s yours is mine. Owner.      I am my brother’s combatant.

Religious    What’s mine is mine. Owner.       I am my brother’s competitor.

Righteous   What’s mine is yours. Steward.   I am my brother’s keeper.


WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE.  “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers.  They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead” (Lk.10:30).  The outlook of a thief:  If I can get it, I will. The robber is not his brother’s keeper; he’s his enemy.  They give abuse and shame. They take honor and peace and virginity. And they manage to muffle guilt and regret.

.WHAT’S MINE IS MINE.  “A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side” (Lk.10:31,32). Why didn’t these religious people stop?  Because they said, “What is mine is mine, my time, my money, my future. It does not belong to you.”  They were religious but not righteous. They heard the commandment to love God, but they didn’t love people. Therefore, they didn’t love God.

These are the capitalists in the world. We are going after things—and more things.  We bow the knee to the god of gold and seek to accumulate. The religious leaders insulated themselves from real need, a terrible deception.  Capitalism ultimately doesn’t work because of human nature. What we possess possesses us, and we embrace a money morality. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Actually, I am my brother’s competitor. That is a three-year old’s philosophy, but it is amazing how many people buy into it, and I do mean “buy”. I am not anti-American.  Given the condition of the human heart, capitalism is a realistic economic system. But the early church existed for a time with an outlook that looked more like communism. One problem of capitalism is that I don’t make a good owner.  I begin to worship possessions. God is the only true owner: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Ps.24:1).

WHAT’S MINE IS YOURS.  “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have’” (Lk.10:33-35).  The Samaritan was responsibility to care for his brother. Why? Because he was a steward, not an owner. A steward manages what belongs to someone else. If the Creator owns it all, we are managers. The issue is not how much we can accumulate but how much we can care for as stewards of God’s riches.

Stewards are not clutching it, they are caring for it.  You know you are a steward if…

  • You get as excited about giving to a mission in China as getting a jacuzzi.
  • You wish you had more money to give away.
  • You see a need and you have a hard time not meeting it.
  • You get an inheritance and think first about whom you are going to help. Part 2 next!