Saturday, April 4, 2020

Hold Onto Hope

With everything going on with COVID-19, I want to share the importance of holding onto hope. Biblical hope is much more than the idea of “hoping” or “wishing” something might happen. True hope is much deeper.
1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” And 1 Peter 3:15 says, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…”

The definition for the word hope in these verses is: “desire of some good with expectation of obtaining it, full of hope and confidence.” The Amplified Bible calls it “joyful and confident expectation.”

Hope is not crossing our fingers. Hope is not superstitious, luck/chance, or a roll of the dice. Biblical hope is the confident and joyful expectancy of the good things we believe for and put our faith in.

Hope is a very necessary ingredient in normal living. If we stop and think about it, we will realize hope has served as a great power and motivation to drive many people into achieving many of the world’s greatest accomplishments!

All of us staying in our homes and not meeting publicly is driven by our collective hope that this pandemic will be over with sooner than later. The hope that fewer people will get sick and die from this virus.

Hope is very important. Hope keeps us going. Biblical hope expects good things to happen. The expectation is so confident and sure that we can even receive joy as a byproduct!

Hope sustains people when they face difficult situations and hard things in life. It is hope things will get better that we can continue to fight and go on. Hope helps us when we are down and discouraged.

photo courtesy of

I am sure there are some of us who may be close to losing hope in certain areas of life right now. I am also sure there are others of us who could exercise the power of their hope and do more for themselves, and for those around them.

Instead of asking “what is the purpose of all this,” I am finding much more hope and life in asking “what is my purpose in the midst of all of this?”

Jesus is with us. Jesus is with YOU. We can still find hope, meaning, and purpose during these times.

In the book, Man's Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl (a psychologist and holocaust survivor) writes, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”

Hope is contagious, but so is fear. What are you choosing to spread?

My prayer over you is Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Storms of Obedience

In my last blog, I wrote about Storms of Association. This time we will be looking at a third and final type of storm, a Storm of Obedience.

Toward the end of Mark chapter 4, we find the disciples facing a Storm of Obedience. Jesus instructs the disciples to get into a boat with Him and cross over to the other side of the body of water.

Not long after setting sail, the disciples are facing an ever-increasing storm and the boat begins to be beaten by the wind and the waves. The storm is so bad that it begins to fill the boat with water. I’ve never been in this type of situation, but I’m sure it could be terrifying! Remember that a number of the disciples were fishermen by trade. They were accustomed to being in boats. They were used to a little bit of wind and water in the boat. Even so, they became fearful and ran to Jesus for help!

When the disciples go to Jesus to seek help, they find Him fast asleep in the midst of the storm. Being fearful of their lives they decide to wake Jesus up. Immediately, Jesus rebukes the wind and tells the sea to be peaceful and still. (Mark 4:38-39)

photo courtesy of

The disciples were awestruck by the actions of Jesus. Jesus used this moment as a lesson for them and they soon continued on their journey to the other side where they later ministered to a demon-possessed man.

The storm of the disciples arrived in the midst of their perfect obedience. The disciples did exactly what Jesus told them to do and they still faced a storm. There will be certain storms we face in life that are caused by our obedience, by being in the perfect will of God.

When Jesus woke up, He didn’t ask who was sinning or in disobedience. He also didn't say it was sent by God. Jesus never addressed why the storm happened, He just rebuked it. In fact, if the storm was sent by God, Jesus wouldn’t have rebuked it.

The word for rebuke used in this passage is the same word for when Jesus rebuked demons and evil spirits. Jesus overcame this storm by spiritual authority.

We usually know where our destination is supposed to be or where we are heading when we face a storm like the disciples. They got in the storm by obedience and got out of the storm by spiritual authority.

Every time there is a storm on the outside, there is usually an even bigger storm on the inside of us. Once we overcome the internal storm, the external storm can be taken care of. Jesus had authority over the storm He was able to sleep through and stay peaceful in.

We have now looked at 3 different storms, 3 different reasons, and 3 different solutions. Repent like Jonah, persevere like Paul, and speak and be at peace like Jesus.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Storms of Association

In my last blog, I wrote about Storms of Disobedience. Now we will be looking at another type of storm, a Storm of Association.

In Acts 27 we find Paul experiencing a Storm of Association. Paul and a number of other prisoners were under the care of a centurion soldier and were being sailed from Asia to Rome. (Acts 27:1-8)

After they were sailing for quite some time, Paul had a bad feeling about what was to come. Paul brought his concern about the possibility of losing the ship and their lives to those in charge. Unfortunately, the centurion went with the advice of those with more experience. (Acts 27:10-11) Paul was a religious man, a tent-maker, and in this case, a prisoner. Paul knew very little about sailing in comparison.

I’m sure most of us would have gone with the wisdom of the more experienced voices if we were put in a similar situation as the centurion. We can’t fault the centurion for ignoring Paul, a prisoner. But, this would later prove to be a nearly fatal mistake.

If Paul wasn't a prisoner then he would've had a choice, but he was forced to go with the choice of those in charge of him, those he was associated with.

Not long after they set sail they find themselves in a violent storm. They were stuck in this horrible typhoon storm for 14 days and nights. It was so bad that the sun and stars couldn't even be seen! After being stuck in an awful storm for 2 weeks, the crew were helpless and had lost all hope. (Acts 27:20)

It can be a challenge to hold onto faith and hope when we are in the midst of a difficult storm, especially when it lasts a very long time! It's one thing to experience a storm, but it's another thing for that storm to go on and on and on.

We don’t have to be worn down by a persistent problem. Instead, we can have faith and patience like Paul. We don’t have to lose faith and hope, instead, we can choose to persevere like Paul!

Paul notifies the crew that he was visited by an angel and all 276 of them would survive, but in order to survive, they would need to be shipwrecked. (Acts 27:21-26) After a short period of time, they find a place to crash the ship and they were all saved! (Acts 27:44)

photo courtesy of

Paul got into this storm because of somebody else, and Paul got out of this storm by perseverance. He had persevering faith even when everyone else had given up and had no hope. If we find ourselves in a Storm of Association, we need to persevere.

We can't assume all storms are caused because of disobedience or because of people we are associated with. Next time we will look at another type of storm, Storms of Obedience.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Storms of Disobedience

Recently, I had the opportunity to write devotionals once a week for the local newspaper in Park Rapids, MN. I wrote about three different types of storms we may face in life. Since they were already written, I figured I would share them here as well for anyone interested.

The first type of storm we will look at is a Storm of Disobedience. We can find a Storm of Disobedience in Jonah in the Bible. God instructed Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh in order to tell them to turn from their ways and serve God. Nineveh was the capital city of the Assyrian empire. At that time, the Assyrians were violent and vicious people that the Israelites were extremely fearful of.

Instead of heading to Nineveh as God had instructed, Jonah jumped on a ship to head to Tarshish. Nineveh is the modern-day city of Mosul, Iraq, and Tarshish was located in southern Spain. Jonah was supposed to make a short journey east to Nineveh (Iraq), but instead, he sailed west across the Mediterranean Sea to Spain. Jonah was heading in the opposite direction the Lord had told him to go. He couldn’t have been much more disobedient to the Lord. (Jonah 1:1-3)

Not long after they set sail for Spain, a huge storm interrupted their journey. Jonah ends up telling the crew to throw him overboard and then the storm would stop. The crew throws him overboard, the seas calm, and Jonah is swallowed by a giant fish. After spending three days and nights in the fish, Jonah finally prays to the Lord. (Jonah 1:4-17)

photo courtesy of

I don’t know about you, but I think I would have prayed before three days of being stuck in the belly of a fish had passed! I say this… but how often do we get stuck in hardships, or life’s storms and wait three days, three weeks, three months, or even three years before we pray to the Lord and get Him involved? It shouldn’t be so.

The Lord is always listening and ready to get involved in our lives. Many times all He needs is an invitation.

After Jonah finally prays to the Lord, the Lord delivers him and the fish spits him out on dry land. (Jonah 2:1-10) Jonah obeys and speaks to the people of Nineveh. After hearing about the Lord from Jonah, the people of Nineveh turn from their ways and the city is saved! (Jonah 3:1-10)

Jonah experienced unnecessary and needless pain because of his disobedience. All of us will face Storms of Disobedience at some point in our lives. All we need to do to start our way out of a Storm of Disobedience is reach out to the Lord and ask for forgiveness. It’s that simple!

We can't assume all storms are caused because of disobedience. Next time we will look at another type of storm, Storms of Association.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Poem- The Soul Winner's Reward

I wrote this poem the day before my father's funeral back in December of 2017. It just kind of came to me. It didn't take much work or time which was pretty cool! I shared this during his funeral service on that December 22nd.

Photo courtesy of

The Soul Winner’s Reward

Jesus died and rose for all women and men,
But they must believe in the Easter story to see heaven.
Believe in your heart and speak with your mouth,
And heaven will be yours instead of going south.
Once you are saved your job is clear,
Tell others about Jesus and may they have ears to hear.
Go into all the world and preach,
Speak to every single one and each.
The world must realize they are in need,
Of a Lord and Savior and friend indeed.
The harvest is plenty and the laborers are few,
So pray there would be harvesters anew.
Do not entertain any excuses you may feel or hear,
Whether they be clothed as shame or ignorance or even fear.
Hear and read and feed on the Word,
And you will learn how to be a good steward.
A steward of your time and treasures and your life,
A member of the Church body known as Christ’s wife.
When you lead one to Jesus you will see light and hope,
But remember it is their decision and you can’t push a rope.
Some plant some water and some harvest the seed,
All parts are vital and necessary in the process you see.
There are rewards in heaven for us when we live this way,
When we point people to the One and only true Way.
Jesus is the way the truth and the life,
And no one comes to the Father except through Him.

If you need an example of a soul winner to look up to,
Look no further than a man named Thomas Juni.
He never preached or evangelized from a large stage,
But he had a great impact even though he died at a young age.
He lived with passion and conviction and zeal,
Even if in his later years his body did not heal.
He shared Jesus boldly for years without excuse,
So if YOU think YOU have excuses you are being obtuse.
Tom lost much of his balance his eyesight and his voice,
But that could not stop him from sharing the Light of his life.
Dad did not stop sharing the Gospel at the end,
He continued to pass out dozens of tracts even from his death bed.
My dad proved that being a soul winner has little to do with physical strength,
But it has everything to do with your heart and doing it by Christ’s strength.
I ask of you today to help me with my father’s mantle,
And to continue to share the Gospel as he lived and taught.
Now that he is gone we will all need to pick up his slack,
So that the souls being won for the Lord do not begin to lack.
Evangelism was his passion and his legacy,
And now he is in heaven receiving the soul winner’s crown as his reward.
Be assured that now whenever you share Jesus or give out a tract,
That my father Thomas Juni will be in the cloud of witnesses cheering you on- and that’s a fact!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Mark Off Your Checklist

In Matthew 28:18-20 it says, "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen."

This Scripture in Matthew is referred to as The Great Commission. This is one of the main commissions that every Christian believer is called to perform. It is our job, our task, and our duty to go and make disciples of all nations. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons take this command by Jesus more seriously than most Christian believers. This shouldn't be so!

The phrase "make disciples" in Matthew 28 means:
to disciple,
to help someone to progressively learn the Word of God,
to become a matured disciple (literally, "a learner," a true Christ-follower);
to train (develop) in the truths of Scripture and the lifestyle required,
a believer learning to be a disciple of Christ in belief and practice.

Being a disciple of Jesus isn't easy, but it is worth it.

Notice that Jesus didn't say, "Go therefore and make converts of all nations..." Jesus said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations." Also notice we are not only supposed to make disciples IN nations, we are supposed to make disciples OF nations!

Photo courtesy of

We aren't supposed to make converts, we are supposed to make disciples.

A conversion is necessary, it is the first step to become a disciple of Jesus, but it is only the beginning of becoming a disciple. Jesus doesn't want us to make confessing Christians. Jesus wants us to make confessing Christians that walk and talk like He did!

We don't want to be the people Jesus spoke of in Matthew 15, "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me." We want to be people that are known for our love (John 13:34-35).

The phrase, "Go therefore and make disciples" holds even more meaning than we have already looked at. This phrase is in the Greek aorist imperative. That means this phrase commands mandatory action to be completely done or checked off. It focuses on the first or most immediate task to be done if a series of tasks is needed. It orders action that must be done decisively and immediately.

For example, when I prepare for a long road trip there is a small checklist of items I look at it and complete before I start driving. I don't just jump in the car and start driving across the country. I check the oil. I check the gas gauge. I check the brake fluid, coolant, and other fluid levels. I check the tire pressure. I check the GPS to see what routes will be the best to take. I make sure I have water and snacks. I check my trunk to see if I need to bring any random tools in case of an emergency. I make sure we have a phone charger. I think you get the idea!

If I were to jump in the car and start driving right away I may not make it all the way across the country. There are some things I need to get done right away and check off my list and complete. These things have to get done or else my trip could be cut short.

Photo courtesy of

According to Jesus going and making disciples is supposed to be the first priority on all of our checklists!

We are to decisively and completely get it done. We are to "just do it" each time the need arises! This calls for decisive and often urgent action on our part. This is what Jesus has called us to do, to go and make disciples.

Today I want to encourage you to go and start making disciples. Check it off, get it done! Focus on the first opportunity to complete it!

If you want a little more in-depth view of what it means to be a disciple then click this link and check out this blog about the specialty teaching that Jesus wants all of His disciples to follow.

The time is now, shake the earth!
- Joel

Monday, September 25, 2017

I Pledge Allegiance

I will begin this post by stating I am extremely blessed to be an American citizen. It is an honor and a gift to be a part of this great country and the freedom that accompanies it. I have many family members and friends who served or are still serving in our armed forces. I myself have never served our fine country, but many of my loved ones have. And to them, their families, and all who have served and are currently serving I say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

While growing up I attended a Christian school from kindergarten through 8th grade. Almost every day in grade school we would recite three separate pledges. We would recite one to the American flag, one to the Christian flag, and one to the Bible.

Here are the pledges if you've never heard or read them before:

Pledge to the American Flag:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Pledge to the Christian Flag:
I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands, one Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again, with life and liberty for all who believe.

Pledge to the Bible:
I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God's Holy Word, I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path and will hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God.

Photo courtesy of

Over the last 8 years or so I have thought about the phrase "I pledge allegiance" quite a bit.

Merriam Webster defines allegiance as:
1. the obligation of a feudal vassal to his liege lord
2. the fidelity owed by a subject or citizen to a sovereign or government
3. the obligation of an alien to the government under which the alien resides
4. devotion or loyalty to a person, group, or cause
5. allegiance to a political party

So if I pledge an allegiance to something, I am making a binding promise, agreement, and obligation to be devoted and loyal to that cause or person or group.

I have pledged allegiance to my wife. It's not illegal for me to cheat on my wife according to the law of the land, but it is against the Word of God for me to cheat on my wife (Exodus 20:14). So my allegiance to my God overrides my allegiance to my country. And God's law overrides the law (or sometimes lack of law) of my country. This is a silly and extreme example, but you get my point.

I have decided to pledge allegiance to my country. BUT, I pledge allegiance to Jesus first and foremost.

The Bible encourages us to obey our leaders, those in authority, and the laws of the land (Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13-14, Matthew 22:21). Yet we read stories of MANY followers who disobey the empire and the religious authorities and then they are persecuted, imprisoned, and martyred for their disobedience. All throughout the Old Testament and New Testament we read of people being defiant and disobeying the laws of the land and governing authorities.

Why is this so? Is the Bible contradicting and inconsistent? Were these people in sin?

They did these things and disobeyed laws and authority because their allegiance was pledged to God first. In Acts, Peter and John were warned on numerous occasions to stop speaking of Jesus and preaching the Gospel or else there would be consequences. But Peter and John did not obey the authorities or religious leaders. In Acts 5:29 they said, "We ought to obey God rather than men."

There will be times where we need to choose which kingdom we are going to serve and pledge our allegiance to. Will you choose to obey the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of America? Will you pledge allegiance to the Kingdom or to the empire?

In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to choose between the two, but there are many times where the two kingdoms will be at odds. So please do not be confused with the idea that pledging allegiance to America or standing for a national anthem is synonymous with being a Christian OR vice versa.

In the book Jesus For President, Shane Claiborne compares the language used to describe Jesus and God's Kingdom and the language used to describe Caesar and the Roman empire. They are one and the same. (King of kings, Lord of lords, Prince of peace, Son of God, etc.) This is no accident. The language used in the Gospels was an incredibly political statement, and the Roman empire did not like it!

Jesus embraced ideas that were contrary to the ways of the Roman empire, the religious authorities, and the culture of the time. And Jesus was hated and ultimately killed for the views He held and the Gospel and Kingdom He preached.

Taking a knee for a national anthem does not automatically mean someone is being dishonorable and disrespectful. At times has it been dishonorable? Yes. At times has it been done in an incorrect and even unhelpful way? Yes. But the reason(s) many of these athletes are taking a knee is to bring something to light. They are trying to help people groups that are oppressed and hurting. Jesus had a similar calling on His life.

In Luke 4:18 Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;"

Maybe some of us are blind and need a recovery of sight so we can open our eyes and see certain systems and ways our country operates that causes people and specific people groups to be poor, brokenhearted, made captive, and oppressed. If that is so, then Jesus has come to heal us of that blindness. He has come to help those hurting people, and He has called Christians to be involved in that healing process.

Is kneeling for a national anthem popular and enjoyable? No, not at all! It opens people up to be ridiculed and name called. So this is not enjoyable for the athletes, but it is bringing attention to an issue that needs to be addressed. They aren't protesting our country, our soldiers, or our flag. They are protesting inequality, injustice, and oppression. It's important that we make a distinction between the two.

The point of a peaceful protest is to make people uncomfortable. To make them uncomfortable enough to question things and to begin to be a part of the conversation. A peaceful protest is a good way to bring things to light. People are paying attention. It's making waves and that's a good thing!

Many times the views held that are contrary to culture are not popular ones to hold AT THE TIME. But in hindsight, we can only look back and shake our heads in sorrow and disbelief. Click here for a link to some different polls done about the civil rights movement back in the 1960s. Some of the polls include:

May 1961- Do you think 'sit-ins' at lunch counters, 'freedom buses,' and other demonstrations by Negroes will hurt or help the Negro's chances of being integrated into the South?
57% Hurt, 28% Help, 16% No opinion

June 1963- Do you think mass demonstrations by Negroes are more likely to help or more likely to hurt the Negro's cause for racial equality?
27% Help, 60% Hurt, 4% Make no difference

October 1964- People have different views about the Negro demonstrations. With which view do you agree? Some people say the Negroes should stop their demonstrations now that they have made their point even though some of their demands have not been met. Others say they have to continue demonstrating in order to achieve better jobs, better housing, and better schooling. (With which view do you agree?)
73% Negroes should stop demonstrating, 19% Have to continue, 8% Don't know

March 1965- How would you feel about clergymen in your own church taking part in protest marches on civil rights issues. Would you approve or disapprove of this?
33% Approve, 56% Disapprove, 12% No opinion

October 1966- All in all, do you feel the demonstrations by Negroes on civil rights have helped more or hurt more in the advancement of Negro rights?
85% Hurts Negro, 15% Helps Negro

December 1966- Tell me for each man if in your opinion you think he is helping or hurting the Negro cause of civil rights... Martin Luther King?
36% Helping, 50% Hurting, 14% Not sure

Looking back at these poll numbers is very telling. Many of us can agree that these protests were not only helpful, but necessary. And many of us would choose to be involved in peaceful protests to help our oppressed brothers and sisters, our fellow Americans. Isn't it likely that we will look back at this time we are currently in and make the same conclusions?

I would venture to say that these athletes taking a knee are much more similar to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in Babylon in Daniel 3 choosing to take a stand and not kneel than they are a "son of a bitch" that needs to be fired. Although Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego did pretty well when they were "fired" by the king of Babylon.

In an article I recently read, author Preston Sprinkle wrote, "When governments pitch themselves as the hope and savior of the world, Christians must expose the fraudulent claim, not celebrate it."

It is more important now than ever that we are united as a Church, a country, and a people. Our country and our president will not be the changemaker. It will be Jesus and the people that choose to be used by Him.

My allegiance is pledged to Jesus before any allegiance to my flag or to my country. I am a citizen of heaven. I am a citizen of God's Kingdom before I am a citizen of the United States. And therefore, I want to live and speak accordingly. I hope you will choose to do the same!

Once that happens and we are united, I'm sure our America can continue to be "the land of the free, and the home of the brave" as our national anthem states.

Shake the earth!
- Joel