Author: John Page 1 of 150

Just Because It Seems to Work

Matthew 20:25-28 “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Isaiah 5:20-21 “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”

I Kings 3:9 “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.”

I vividly remember my first time in New York City. It was my freshman year in college, and I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of everything in Manhattan. As a small town boy, it was the grandiose in every way.

During that trip, I met several very nice gentlemen who always seemed to want to sell me strangely inexpensive watches. The ones that particularly caught my eye were the ones with Gucci emblazoned on the face for only $15 – what a steal!

These watches looked real and they worked like they were real. My friends explained the truth of these watches, but I came up with a brilliant plan. I bought one for my younger brother and gave it to him for Christmas. To add to the mystique of the gift, I went to an actual Gucci store and bought a real watch box, which ended up being slightly more expensive than my timepiece purchased on the streets of Manhattan. My brother and my parents were amazed at my generosity. For years, my brother only brought out his new watch on special occasions, and he treasured this extravagant gift from his beloved sibling.

Several years later, as his gift for graduating from high school, I bought him the exact same watch, but from a real Gucci store. He was confused – why would I get him another watch when his still worked perfectly? That’s when I told him that in spite of the well adorned façade, the original was a fake and this one was real.

Life is full of fakes. Sometimes they are obvious, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are counter-cultural and sometimes they are based on the prevailing pressure of society. Either way, God calls for our judgments to be filled with understanding and discernment to sort out the real from the fake.

PLEASE PRAY FOR AMERICAN CHRISTIANS TO REVEAL THE FAKES AND DISCERN THE GENUINE ARTICLES IN A SOCIETY ENGULFED IN CONFUSION. Just because it seems to work for a while doesn’t mean that it is real and authentic.

Off-The-Charts

I Thessalonians 5:18 “In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Hebrews 13:5 “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

II Corinthians 10:12 “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”

II Corinthians 12:9-10 “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.”

An interesting experiment was conducted on unsuspecting passengers several years ago in the Mediterranean Sea. These lucky people had been notified that they were “winners” of a free large boat cruise in the picturesque scenery on Europe’s southern coast. Throughout the cruise, they were given a survey to measure satisfaction, and the results were off-the-charts. That was until the real experiment kicked into action.

At one of the ports, a larger boat filled with actors pulled up next to them, and the “passengers” on that boat were enjoying themselves thoroughly. At the next survey of satisfaction, the passengers on the original boat had their positive ratings plummet. It wasn’t good enough that they were on a fun, free vacation when others seemed to have an experience that was more, better, and bigger.

Isn’t that typical of humanity!? Isn’t that typical of us!?

We have far more than we deserve, yet we quickly become restless when we see someone else with a bit more. Far to often, our satisfaction is tethered to unwise comparisons and unhelpful covetousness. It saps our joy and squanders our jubilation. Instead, in every thing we should give thanks. We should be content with whatever we have. We should avoid comparisons. And, we should even take pleasure in our infirmities. That is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us.

PLEASE PRAY THAT AMERICAN CHRISTIANS WOULD PROPERLY REPRESENT OUR APPRECIATION TO OUR MATCHLESS SAVIOUR THROUGH EVER-PRESENT JOY AND CONTENTMENT. Regardless of the status of those around us, with Christ our satisfaction should be off-the-charts.

Ridiculous

II Corinthians 10:12 “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”

II Timothy 4:7 “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

Matthew 25:26-27 “His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.”

I Corinthians 12:11 “But all these worketh that one and selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”

The Beatles are almost undisputedly the most famous band ever, selling over 600 million records. Specifically, the duo of John Lennon and Paul McCartney have been revered since when they began writing songs together in 1963.

It was from the beginning that they agreed to list their names on the song credits alphabetically: Lennon-McCartney. But, as they got more famous, Paul McCartney became bitter that his name was listed second instead of first. Starting in 1976, he began individually buying up the rights to the songs and switching the order to McCartney-Lennon. A resultant legal feud began with Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, in 1995 who called McCartney “ridiculous, absurd, and petty.” The entire situation was only resolved legally in 2003, but as late as 2015, McCartney was still bitterly bringing it up in interviews.

For anyone looking in from the outside, there was plenty of fame, adulation, power, prestige, and wealth to go around. Yet, Paul McCartney compared himself to John Lennon, solely on the basis of the order of the listing of their names on the song credits, and it drove him nuts. Ridiculous, absurd, and petty are massive understatements.

Yet, how often do Christians compare ourselves to one another, in spite of all our blessings. In doing so, we too are ridiculous, absurd, and petty.

We are responsible for finishing the course God has given us. We are to exercise proper, careful, and wise stewardship – not as compared to what someone else has – but with what we have been given. In doing so, we best fulfill God’s plan for us and bring Him the glory and honor that He deserves.

PLEASE PRAY FOR AMERICAN CHRISTIANS TO FOCUS ON GOD’S MISSION FOR US AND NOT TO BE DISTRACTED BY THE ACTIVITIES OR ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF OTHERS. May God’s people never be ridiculous, absurd, and petty.

ADMIN: The Lennon-McCartney story comes from “The Status Game” by Will Storr.

Crisis Upon Crisis

II Chronicles 7:14-16 “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.”

I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

This coming Monday, March 25th, marks the 11th anniversary of the start of the PLUS ministry. It was birthed from a passionate concern about the errant direction our nation was headed then, and those concerns have only intensified during the last 11 years. We are facing an acute and a chronic crisis.

On that first week of PLUS, I posted the following:

“Leadership consultants remind us that ‘a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.’ The meaning behind this statement is quite simple — the worse the situation, the more incentive there is to reflect upon badly needed changes.  Failing to change course under such dire circumstances piles tragedy upon crisis.

Reflecting upon the situation in which our nation finds itself, it is difficult to describe it as anything but a crisis.  It is an economic crisis and a political crisis; it is a moral crisis and a value crisis; it is a leadership crisis and a followership crisis.  Yet, while the situation worsens, the nation continues to diverge from God without considering the correlation because between our unfaithfulness and our unfruitfulness.

We need national-level healing in our land that comes from a permanent change of direction toward humility, prayer, faithfulness and righteousness.  Fortunately, the model of salvation-producing repentance should be familiar to us, one in which we reverse our direction away from the world and towards God.”

Today, we see crisis upon crisis, and tragedy upon tragedy. We have entered a perpetual vicious spiral that is dragging our society downward. While not a perfect correlation, the World Happiness Report released this past week reinforces the tragic tumbling of American society. Though many don’t realize it, the root of our problems is our eagerness to increasingly untether from the stability of foundational principles and unmoor from the surety of Biblical truths. Instead of eagerly running towards the Lord, we sprint away from Him.

PLEASE PRAY FOR AMERICANS TO REASSESS OUR RECKLESS REMOVAL FROM OUR FOUNDATIONAL CHARACTERISTICS AND TO RECOGNIZE THE REQUIREMENT FOR A RAPID RETURN THROUGH REVIVAL. If we don’t, we will continue to see a society characterized by crisis upon crisis.

Blessing Them

Genesis 12:1-3 “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

At the end of February, I made a long-overdue trip to Israel as a guest of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). As a frequent news contributor for national security and international affairs topics, I have fielded an onslaught of interview questions during the last five months about the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, and the situation in the broader Middle East. Thus, this two-day visit provided me the opportunity to express solidarity for Israel while better understanding the complex context of the conflict. The trip powerfully provided both.

Shortly after arriving at Ben Gurion Airport outside of Tel Aviv, the sobriety and gravity of situation was on full display. Walking to the airport exit, the terminal corridor was lined with pictures of those still held captive by Hamas, including the face of Lior Rudaeff whose picture I have been carrying around for weeks as a reminder of the Hamas-initiated tragedy. Several conversations quickly revealed that the national psyche was fundamentally impacted by the vulnerability that was revealed on the 7th of October. Everyone had lost someone close to them, and all had lost a collective expectation of safety. Strangers would ask one another – what time zone are you in? – a quick query to reveal how long a rocket launched from Gaza or southern Lebanon would take to reach their home. The answer for much of the population was measured in tens of seconds, with the natural follow-on – do you have your own bunker?

I began at the IDF Spokesperson Unit Headquarters, and was ushered into a room to view Bearing Witness – also known as The Film of Horrors. The closely-controlled 47-minute raw footage, largely taken by Hamas members themselves, displayed unimaginable barbarism and a rampant disregard for humanity. As video clips of mutilation and torture were graphically revealed, it was the joy of the perpetrators and those in Gaza when they returned with half dead bodies in the back of their Toyota pickup trucks, that was the most stunning. From the home of a family he had just slaughtered, a member of Hamas even took the time to call his mom to ecstatically share how he had just killed his tenth Jew.

With such vivid images still in my mind, it was a quick drive from Tel Aviv to the northeast corner of Gaza where that terror had vividly and tragically shaken the national psyche. From a lookout perch just outside a small city that was starting to come back to life, it was easy to gaze out into Gaza City and see and hear signs of ongoing fighting throughout the Gaza Strip. Our lookout city absorbed the wrath of three Hamas rockets shortly after we left, causing its population to scramble to their bunkers with seconds of warning – their time zone was essentially zero.

We paralleled the eastern edge of Gaza, passing trucks carrying tanks back from the front lines to their depot facilities for repair. We lingered outside Kibbutz Be’eri, where a hundred innocents had been slaughtered weeks before. We stopped at the killing fields of the Nova Film Festival where Bearing Witness had shown the joy of celebration quickly turn to the horror of terror on that fateful Sabbath morning in October.

It was easy to see how all Israelis consider this an existential threat. The distances between locations were minute and the hatred from the enemy was limitless. The next day while enroute to the West Bank, a quick stop at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, provided a somber reminder that for Jews in a world brewing with antisemitism, they have nowhere else to go. It was Israel or extermination. Their small sliver of land, from the river to the sea, was the only thing they could count on. And even then, their leaders had let them down.

The nation of Israel is unified in their commitment to respond and survive, but there is a reckoning on the horizon for Prime Minister Netanyahu and the security failures that had allowed such a tragedy to occur on their own soil. IDF members still hang their heads in shame in public, feeling personal guilt that their shortcomings had allowed the undetected attack and that their lagged initial response was far less than their nation deserved. The IDF heroics since then have provided them a partial atonement.

In the midst of the national unity, a division is evident between Israel’s two top priorities in the conflict. The slogans Never Forget or Never Again are stark reminders of Israel’s commitment to defeat and destroy Hamas. Yet, as powerful as those reminders are, the slogan Bring Them Home Now! is the one that tugs on the heart strings of a population in mourning for those who may or may not be alive as hostages in the web of tunnels underneath Gaza. With daily hostage rallies from locations that flank the Ministry of Defense and ubiquitous marches throughout the country sorrowfully displaying pictures of those still held captive by Hamas, the pressure of Now! is palatable. It is clear that the population is eager to accept risk with the former objective to further the latter objective – Now!

The strategic elements of the conflict will play out in the days, weeks, months and years to come. Unrest in the West Bank during Ramadan is imminent. The necessity of resolving the threat of Hezbollah in the north is urgent. A plan for post-conflict governance in Gaza, and the proper balance of humanitarian support to suffering Palestinians, are long overdue. But, there is a lot of healing still needed for the population within Israel, and their efforts to recover from the attack from five months ago is largely unfinished. This reminder was punctuated during my early Sabbath morning walk through Ben Gurion Airport to my departure gate, where I walked down another corridor through another gauntlet of hostage pictures with faces who cry out to Bring Me Home Now!

PLEASE PRAY FOR ISRAEL IN THESE CONTINUED TOUGH TIMES AND PRAY FOR THE UNITED STATES TO BE A TRUE FRIEND TO THEM. God’s contingent promise stands ready to bless or to curse. May we be on the positive side of that ledger.

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