The Real Story

You think you know the story in Luke 15:11-32 because you’ve heard it a hundred times? Keep reading, because this time you might be surprised. Bear with me as I put the story in a modern setting.

*******

A man was successful as a rancher and in his investments, and his family had everything they wanted that money could buy. He had two sons, George and Jake: both of whom secretly disrespected dad, and openly hated each other.

Disillusioned with life, one day George, the younger boy, said, “Dad, I’ve thought it over and I want nothing to do with ranching. I want to live my own life without you telling me what to do. Give me my half of the inheritance and I’ll get out of your life!

The dad evaluated his business, sold enough stock that was equal to half his worth, and gave it to rebellious George. Jake was ecstatic! Now everything the old man owned was his, and he would do everything he could to build the business; for he was now heir to it all!

Over the next four years, George spent his money on prostitutes, cars, gambling, drugs and alcohol. He flew around the country and around the world  visiting the best casinos. The owners got to know him and welcomed him with open arms as they offered him free alcohol and free rooms for him and his current partner. Thinking that his friends loved him, he lavished his time and money on them, too.

But he forgot something: continual outflow, without a corresponding inflow, will dry up the money-flow. And it happened to George. Now penniless, he realized he needed a job – anything that might provide enough money for another drug fix, bottle of booze, or cheap sex.

With a four-year history of extravagant but shameful living, no one would hire him; and all the friends he thought his money had bought had deserted him. Totally abandoned, he figured that suicide was his best option. But as he began to make the plan, a thought entered his beleaguered mind: “Maybe dad will hire me to repair fences, or something. There’s enough to do on the ranch where I can stay out of his way.”

He called home from the Salvation Army office. When he asked dad if he could come home, his father said, “Son, I’ve been waiting for you and my door is open; come on home.” The Salvation Army captain took George to his house to get cleaned up. He gave him clean clothing and bought him a bus ticket.

Eighteen hours and two states later, the bus pulled into town around noon. Wondering howDSCN4942 he would get from the station to the ranch, the boy looked out the window. His mouth dropped open as he saw his dad and a group from the church waving signs that yelled “WELCOME HOME GEORGE!”

As he disembarked the bus, he broke down. Sobbing, he said, “Dad, I’m ashamed of what I’ve done. I’ve wasted everything, and my life is a mess. Can you hire me as one of your ranch hands until I get back on my feet?”

But his father took the young man into his big arms and said, “Son, I have been waiting every day for four years for you. Everything I own will belong to Jake, but you are still my son. And as long as I am alive, my home is your home.” When they pulled up to the big house, his mother, aunts, uncles, and neighbors had a barbeque shin-dig ready; and a huge cake had been prepared that was decorated with “Welcome Home!”

George asked, “Where’s Jake?” Dad said he was up north conducting business, but would be home in a couple of days. But someone called Jake and told him George had returned. Jake blew up!

Jake immediately called his dad and demanded, “What’s that good-for-nothing wino doing back home! I’m the one who has stayed with you and built the business. I don’t want him here living off what I’ve built! Get rid of him!”

Dad responded, “Jake, everything I have will be yours. But George asked to be forgiven, and it is only right that we let him in. After all, he is family. As long as I’m alive, George can stay.”

*******

Dear reader, you’ve been told the story was about George who wasted half the family fortune. But George’s narrative is only the background for the real story. The parable is about Jake’s rebellion, rejection, and refusal to forgive.

CrossJesus told the parable to the those who considered themselves the elite of society and heirs to the kingdom of God. The proud religious leaders thought it would lower their prestige if they accepted traitors, tax collectors, winos, and prostitutes into their society and into their church meetings.

The moral: Pride is just as bad as wasting a life. But anyone who truly repents – whether pastor or prostitute, model citizen or murderer – is accepted by the Father and welcomed into His kingdom.

Humbly turn to our heavenly Father, tell him you’re sorry for how you’ve lived. Ask him for guidance and courage to turn around, and he’ll help you.

Enjoy the Trip

SWOOOOOOOOSH!! It seems that a powerful gust of wind blew into our house, flipped 1280px-Strommast2the pages on the calendar, turned our hair a little whiter, took money out of our wallet, and blew back out of the house leaving us a little off balance. The birthdates of our kids and grandkids seemed to be but a blip on the radar screen. Does time fly that fast for you? Time seemed to 0go a lot slower when we were younger.

When Rebecca, our younger daughter, was in high school she asked me, “Daddy, how can I make time go faster?” I said, “Either learn to like what you are doing, or become very busy.” That didn’t quite satisfy her at the time. But when she went to college and loved her time there, time began to fly. Now that she is a wife and mother of five children (four girls and one boy), she is wondering how to slow time down.  However, she told me recently that she is learning to make the most of each day with her kiddos – and logging the life-enriching memories.

With the days and months seemingly whizzing by, is there something you have been intending to do? A project waiting for you? A book you want to read? A trip you want to take? Maybe something you want to write? Don’t wait too long because we never know what tomorrow brings.

Some years ago, Carol and I found a way to slow time down – a little. We refrain from putting too many items on our calendar, and we spend more time with each other, helpingjanuary-2019-calendar2 each other. Relating life to a cross-country trip, Rev. Chuck Swindoll summed it up in six syllables: “Stop, and smell the roses.” He informed us that merely putting miles behind us does not enrich our lives. We must stop! Get out of the car. Walk around. “Smell the roses.” In other words: Don’t just finish the trip – enjoy the trip. Learn something. Do something meaningful for yourself.

Make your life count or be significant within the context of other lives. This doesn’t require a New Year’s Resolution, a Masters’ Degree, or $25,000 in the bank. Instead it requires the desire to really live life fully – in a Godly context, of course. And it produces peace, less stress, a gentler pace of life, and most likely a longer life.

All that is sometimes difficult to do because we have a hard time deciding what to eliminate from our hectic, overcrowded schedule. You’ve probably heard the statement: “When you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s easy to forget that the initial objective was to drain the swamp.” But you can ask for help getting back into the boat, and seek counsel to make better plans.

Some of the best counsel you can receive is found in the Bible. When my grandfather was 96 years old, he told me, “Everything you need to know is in the Bible. You can learn a lot of things, but everything you NEED to know is in the Bible. Study it.” He is right. Read the Psalms and Proverbs. You will be surprised at the wisdom for everyday decisions you will find there. The added benefit is reading, studying, and living by the Godly principles there enables us to experience a more peaceful and enjoyable life.

So, cut out a lot of the unnecessary busyness, and think about that project to do, book to image00771read, trip to plan and take, or book to write. Lighten the load by eliminating unimportant things. Keep the important items. Don’t make your life more hectic, but more valuable.

Spend time with family. Attend worship services regularly. Stop and smell the roses.

And all year long remember this: God loves you.

What Constitutes “Wickedness”?

Dr. Chuck McCullough, my long-time friend, JBU Graduate, and writing partner in New Mexico, gave me permission to reprint an article he wrote for his Bible Answers column as a spring-board for discussion. Chuck wrote:


 “Does God have it in for wicked people? Does He want to damn them to hell for all the bad they have done?”—Brian

The Bible makes it clear God is not happy about “wickedness”. He issued specific commands to keep it in check (Ex. 20:1ff). The writer of Proverbs told his readers what God abhors (Prov. 6:16-19). There were some pretty severe judgments upon wickedness in the Old Testament (e.g., Gen. 19; Josh. 7)

The New Testament provides several lists of serious infractions (I Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Col. 3:5-9).  This sort of behavior is clearly not what God intended for His highest creatures. He “hoped” for better, in a manner of speaking.

But hear two other pertinent thoughts:

First, God doesn’t relish the destruction of the “wicked people.” The Book says as much (Ezek. 18:23, 32). God has gone to unimaginable lengths to reach all people (the “world” of Jn. 3:16) in our brokenness, to rescue us from an eternity apart from Him (Rom. 1:17; 5:6-10; Eph. 2:4-10; I Tim. 2:4). He does not want any to perish (II Pet. 3:9). Indeed, Jesus did not come to condemn the world; rather, He came so that the world might be saved (Jn. 3:17-21).

Second, the Scripture presents a cautionary message to those who wish to identify the “real” sinners and condemn them to hell. Before we draw the line, attempting to spell out who is worthy of grace and who is not, we should remember that “all are sinners and fall short of God’s perfection” (Rom. 3:23).

Thus, from God’s standpoint, all of us may be considered “wicked” and desperately in need of rescue by His grace (Eph. 2:1-9). God’s great desire is that all people will come to faith in Him (I Tim. 1:12-15; I Thess. 5:23; II Thess. 3:3-5; Titus 3:1-7; I Jn. 1:5-10).

Dr. Chuck McCullough, former pastor of White Rock Baptist Church, Los Alamos, NM; published in The Los Alamos Monitor, Los Alamos, NM on March 28, 2014


Well said, my friend. Thank you for permission to reprint your article because people have asked me, “What constitutes wickedness? What makes a person wicked”?

One of our grandsons said, “A wicked person is someone who kidnaps a kid and is mean to him.” An adult in New Mexico said, “Wickedness is doing things like dropping atomic bombs on Japan!” When I asked him if Japan’s prior attack on Pearl Harbor was wicked, he said, “That wasn’t as bad as dropping those bombs!”

Hmmmmm…. I suppose people judge wickedness on a sliding scale, but God doesn’t have a sliding scale. We either pass or fail. We are either wicked or we are righteous. So, what are the criteria?

 Wicked is spelled out in the Scripture listed in Chuck’s article, but is briefly defined as evil or sinful. Evil is the absence of good; sin is the attitude or act of violating God’s will; and a righteous person is one who does what is right. But since Romans 3:10 says, “No one is righteous; no, not one!”, and since Jesus said in Matthew 19:17, “There is no one good, but God.”, how can Matthew 13:49 tell us the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous?

That’s easy: Romans 5:19 tells us if we repent (turn away) from our sins, accept Jesus into our lives, and live for Him, Jesus will declare us righteous. Jesus can do that because He, as God, took our place when He received judgment for our sin on the cross.

Conclusion: anyone who has ever broken any of God’s laws is wicked and worthy of judgment. But God doesn’t want to damn us; that’s why Jesus came to rescue us, and the remedy is given in Scripture. “Jesus did not come to condemn the world; rather, He came so that the world might be saved” (John. 3:17-21).

Also, Luke 19:10 says that Jesus came to save those who are lost. So, what should we do?

When the jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” the Apostle Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).  That’s the answer. You will no longer be wicked, but declared to be righteous.

If you have not responded to Jesus, please read the blogs for the past two weeks. Jesus loves you and wants you in his family.

What Happened When Jesus Was Crucified?

You might wonder why I say Jesus was crucified on Thursday, but the answer is simple. Jesus said he would be in the grave for three days AND three nights. Scripture also says Jesus rose from the grave in the morning before sunrise on the first day of the week. Simple math says if he was in the grave for three nights and he rose on Sunday morning, he had to be buried on Thursday.

Also, note that Passover is called a high holy day and a High Sabbath. John 19:31 informs us Jesus was crucified the day before the high day, or high Sabbath.

Matt. 12:39-40, Matt. 27:57-61, John 19:31

DSCN0874It is Thursday. Jesus was crucified around 9:00 am. He died at 3:00 pm – about the time of the evening sacrifice. His limp body was lowered from the cross. His friends, led by a member of the Sanhedrin, bound His lifeless form in long strips of linen cloth. They placed Him on a cold slab of rock in a new burial room in a hillside. They would be back to finish the burial in 3 days: after both the Passover and weekly Sabbath celebrations.

Matt. 27:62-66

The guards have been positioned.  They were ordered to stand guard for at least three days to prevent Jesus’ friends from stealing His body, and claiming that He had come back to life.

Many folk were in their homes eating the Passover supper and were glad this day was over. It had been quite a turbulent day and they wanted to get some rest. After the Passover, life in Jerusalem would be back to normal … they hoped.

Matt. 27:50-53

DSCN0728BBut they also were quite worried. The graveyards had been badly damaged during the earthquake, and thousands of graves had opened up. People throughout Israel thought they would spend several weeks or months reburying the dead.

Others were deeply grieving. They couldn’t eat,  they couldn’t sleep. Their Friend, Master, and Messiah? Was dead! And the Kingdom He promised them now seemed to be a fading mist. He was gone and the hated Romans were still ruling Israel.  All their hopes and dreams for themselves and for their nation were crucified and buried in that tomb.

But Wait A Minute … Something is happening. There is activity in Hades, the place of the dead. Jesus is there, talking to a lot of people – perhaps millions of them. They are listening intently. Now they are yelling and dancing and rejoicing with the Savior.

There are also hosts of angels there, standing guard. They are waiting for orders from Jesus, their Commander and King!

I Peter 3:19,  Eph. 4:7-10

Now Jesus is speaking with Lucifer and another group of people. Some are sad, many are angry. Finally, with all the demons of hell looking on, Lucifer reluctantly bows to Jesus. Lucifer is defeated, and he surrenders all his authority to his Master: Jesus.

Jesus then turns to the jubilant, joyful group, and gives the final command: “Follow Me!”  And the army prepares to move out!

Back in the graveyard ……

It is the third night of the third day: still dark in what we would call Sunday morning. Near the tomb where Jesus’ body lay, some of the soldiers were on guard while the others were sleeping.

Suddenly, there was another earthquake! It was about as strong as the one three daysIMG_1578B earlier. The sleeping soldiers jumped up, and they all saw the stone roll away from the front of the tomb. As the stone rolled away, the soldiers saw that the cave was filled with an unearthly, brilliant light which was brighter than the noon-day sun.

They saw a man inside whose face shone like lightning! He was walking toward the opening of the tomb. That unearthly light, which cannot be described, filled the entire surrounding area.

Matt. 28:1-4

Fear such as these soldiers had never known before enveloped them! Their legs buckled and they collapsed, falling unconscious to the ground as though they were dead: and Jesus walked out of the tomb and into Resurrection Life. All his grave clothes remained where Jesus had been laid.

Matt. 27:50-53

Remember the graves which had opened up three days earlier? Just as Jesus came out of his grave, thousands, perhaps millions, of others were coming out of their graves. The Bible lets us know that Jesus ministered to them and set them free. The place called Abraham’s Bosom, the place of the righteous dead, no longer exists and the Old Testament Saints have a new home in Heaven. Jesus lead them from death to Life in order to emphasize His OWN resurrection.

Acts 1:9Bible.docx

I’ve been asked if they died again. The answer is, No. They told of the Glory and the Power of God for forty days. When Jesus left the earth, these resurrected folk left earth with him.

Jesus is alive, and all those who believe in him will eventually go to be with him.

Pilate heard of Jesus’ resurrection. With bewilderment and a touch of wry humor, he thought, Of course, it isn’t true; but good for him if he could pull that one off! I was on his side, anyway. Maybe my wife will feel better now, and it’ll give those rebellious Jews something to chew on for a while. True or not, this Jesus wins in the end! He then wrote a letter to the emperor about the situation.

Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin were terrified and angry. This can’t have happened! No one comes back from the dead – and Jesus can’t either, especially after the hell the Romans put him through. We’ve got to cover this up until we find that blasted body! First, we’ll bribe those guards to lie about it, then the real work begins! (Matthew 28:11-15)

The citizens of Jerusalem were at first scared out of their wits! This is weird! Crazy! A nightmare! Things like this are only dreamed about! But when reality set in, they realized Jesus must, also, have come back from the dead. What had happened?

Matthew 27:52-53

Friends and relatives they had buried days or long ago were now alive and walking through the streets talking about the glorious wonders of God – almost as though they had been in the very throne room of God. These resurrected people were real: they were not spirits or ghosts. Their resurrection cannot be denied, and that gave heavy proof that Jesus also came back from the dead.

dscn0464Because Jesus never sinned or did anything wrong, because he suffered the penalty for every sin mankind has committed, and because he rose from the dead, Lucifer has absolutely no power or control over us. 1 John 1:9 guarantees it. If we confess our sins and repent, God will forgive us and restore our relationship with him. All we need to do is to obey him. We might face the human consequences for what we’ve done, but God will forgive us and we can live with him forever in heaven.

THAT’s what Passover and Resurrection Day is all about.

A Passover Drama

PONTIAS PILATE IN CEASAREA:

Passover week is here again.  I’m not looking forward to it. Too many things going on. I’m worried about what those Jews are up to. This is always the time of year when the foolish Pharisees and the Sanhedrin try to stir up trouble against us again. Why don’t they just mind their own business, and let us mind ours? There is nothing they can do to help this world. But the Imperial Roman Army? We spent several hundred years making this world a better place.

I better go to Jerusalem for the Jew’s High Holy Day, and make sure that they don’t get out of hand. I better take an extra contingent of Imperial Guards to help out … just in case. I don’t like these … these troublesome … goat-lovers!

 

HIGH PRIEST CAIAPHAS IN JERUSALEM:

This is Passover week.  I’m not looking forward to it. Too much going on. I’m worriedDSCN0134 what that Jesus is up to. This foolish would-be Messiah, claiming to be the Son of Jehovah, is trying to overthrow the Sanhedrin’s power. He is getting the entire population to believe His stories … His fairy-tales!  And now the people are beginning to doubt MY authority.

I am not going to put up with this any longer. Jesus is up to no good, and I am going to see to it that He is taken out of the way. I’ll be staying here in Jerusalem for our Highest of Holy Days, and make sure that Jesus doesn’t escape. I better keep the Temple Guard with me … just in case. I don’t like these … these troublesome … Messiah-lovers.

AN EXCITED ISRAELITE AS JESUS ENTERS JERUSALEM:

This is Passover week! Our Messiah has finally arrived, and he’s going to push the Romans all the way back to Rome! Ever since Antiochus Epiphanes, we’ve seen many potential messiahs come and go, and began wondering if the real one would ever come. But this is it. Jesus is the one we’ve been waiting for!

We have been waiting for hundreds of years for this to happen, and we’ll finally get rid of these … these troublesome … ROMANS!

 

THE APOSTLE JOHN AS JESUS ENTERS JERUSALEM:

This is Passover week. I’m glad it finally arrived. Praise to Jehovah, I’ve been looking DSCN0574forward to this for a long time! Our Master, our Teacher, our Messiah will finally set up the Kingdom He has talked about for two years. Will I sit on His right or left side? But I shouldn’t be thinking that way. I’m sure the Master will decide who should sit where in the Kingdom. And He does have a lot on His mind these days – probably the most important is when and how He’s going to destroy the Roman Empire and break its stranglehold on Israel.

The Master said that He’ll be eating the Passover with us this week. This will be wonderful! It’ll be our third Passover together, and I have a feeling that this one will be the most important one.

I really enjoy it when the Master spends time with us; we learn so much when He does. He uses common, everyday things to teach us deep spiritual truths. I don’t know how He does it, but I want to be just like Him. He is closer than a brother to me, and … strangely … I feel that He is kind of like a father … but different. I can’t explain it, but that’s how I feel.

I wonder what the Master will teach us this week.

 

JESUS ENTERING JERUSALEM:

This is it – Passover week. As a man, this is the first time in over thirty years that I am not looking forward to it. However, I’ve been planning for this week since I put Adam in theDSCN0728 Garden, and no one – not even Lucifer – is going to prevent me from accomplishing my goal.

Ever since I put Adam and Eve in the Garden, Lucifer has been trying to destroy my plan. His first attempt was with Eve, and he thought he had succeeded. He has attempted other power-plays throughout history, and his strongest power-play is happening right now – but he won’t win. I’m glad that we, the Father and I, didn’t reveal our Master Plan to any of the angelic hosts. That way the information couldn’t leak to Lucifer, and he still doesn’t know what’s going to happen. I’ll stay here in Jerusalem for this, our Highest of Holy Days, and fulfill my task. I’ll assure that My disciples are not hurt.

I’m sorry that most of the people have forgotten the real meaning of the Passover. I must re-affirm it in the minds of my disciples this week, so that they’ll be able to keep it alive until I return.

As I said, in the flesh I am not really looking forward to what is about to happen.  But I will go through it to for two reasons: I want to restore our relationship with humanity, and prepare humanity to fulfill his destiny and complete our plan.

 

What Happened When Jesus Was Crucified? To be Continued.

Passover

This year, 2019, Passover begins at sunset on April 19, and ends at sunset on the 27th.

I know most calendars mention Easter but I prefer to call the event by the correct historical term: Pascha, derived from Pesach: which is Passover.

The eight-day festival is a celebration which dates back roughly to 1450 BC when the Israelites were set free in Egypt and left in that famous mass-exodus. And by following the customs or traditions of Passover, the Jewish church has the ability to relive and experience the freedom that their ancestors gained.

But as you read through Scripture, you find that the Passover, in which innocent lambsDSCN4172 were sacrificed, foreshadowed the crucifixion of Jesus; for Jesus, the Christ, was ultimately the true innocent Passover Lamb – not just for one nation, but for the world. Let’s briefly recap the history that led to the Passover Celebration.

Ten of Jacob’s sons were jealous of young Joseph because Jacob had given Joseph the coat of many colors – the robe of authority denoting family leadership. Eight of the brothers sold Joseph to a trade caravan and Joseph was taken to Egypt.

Rising in authority in Potiphar’s household, he was falsely accused of attempted rape and sent to prison – probably under Potiphar’s jurisdiction. Joseph interpreted dreams and was taken to the reigning Pharaoh – probably of the Hyksos people who were not native to Africa.

After Joseph died, the native Africans (probably Cushites and Nubians) defeated the Hyksos and regained control of Egypt. But because the descendants of Jacob ethnically resembled the Hyksos, the Egyptians thought the Israelites would rise up and fight for the Hyksos. Therefore, the “Pharaoh who knew not Joseph” ordered them enslaved.

Eventually, Moses was born, placed in the Nile, rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, and raised in the Egyptian court. He was schooled in every phase of Egyptian aristocracy, could speak several languages, and traveled throughout the kingdom.

However, although becoming a general in the Egyptian army, Moses never forgot his roots and killed an Egyptian task-master who was brutalizing an Israeli. But killing an Egyptian officer without the Pharaoh’s permission was a capital offence – even for the esteemed Moses – and he fled for his life.

PICT0061Deprived of his royal background, he became a lowly shepherd for forty years; but God never abandoned Moses, and commissioned him to return to Egypt to be the human element in setting the Israelis free.

It was understandable why the Pharaoh refused to free his subjects: by now, economics prevailed. So God began to apply leverage to force Pharaoh’s hand. The last straw was the tenth plague. God set the day when this would take place.

God gave Moses specific instructions about how to prepare the last meal in Egypt, for each item and its preparatory procedure would reflect, in some way or other, on the death of the final Sacrificial Lamb. So Moses gave the order to put blood on three places outside the door, and eat the meal with their traveling clothes on. After the meal, they would head out.

The tenth plague that Egypt experienced was death of the first-born male. Cows, mules, and horses also suffered this fate. The term passover derives from pesach which essentially means to pass over something; and in the Land of Egypt, the death angel passed over the houses which had the blood applied to the doorposts. The people who were covered with the blood of the lamb were spared.

Pharaoh’s son died, so Pharaoh finally submitted to Moses, allowing Moses to lead the people out of bondage and into freedom. (Many tumultuous years were in store for the Israelis, but that’s another story.)

In Israeli history, Moses became their servant-ruler, which reflects on our Savior, our Redeemer.

The Temple Sacrifice was instituted to reveal the severity of sin (disobeying God), and also pointed to the final Sacrifice – Jesus, the Messiah.

But there is a significant difference between the traditional sacrificial lambs and our final Sacrificial Lamb. Where the yearly lamb died to gain forgiveness of sin for a year, Jesus died and raised from the dead to grant us forgiveness forever, and inherit eternal life.

dscn0185[1]Passover is a picture of the sinless Lamb of God – Jesus – Who suffered the penalty of sin for us (death), raised Himself back to life, and set us free. All we need to do is to accept Jesus into our lives, ask Him to forgive us for our self-centered lifestyle, then purposely live for Him. We will be covered with the blood of the Lamb and forgiven.

Passover points to Calvary.

Next time we’ll get a glimpse of happened during that famous Passover Week leading to Jesus crucifixion.

Jesus’ Advent on Earth

“What does it mean when Scripture says that God sent Jesus in the “fullness of DSCN0123Btime”? Why did God send Jesus when He did? Why not earlier? Why not later?”

These questions might be related more to culture and history than to theology.

In all of Scripture, I find one passage that gives a strong, clearly-defined clue. That is Isaiah 40:3-5.  This is the New Century Version for a little clarification.

3 This is the voice of one who calls out: “Prepare in the desert the way for the Lord. Make a straight road in the dry lands for our God. 4 Every valley should be raised up, and every mountain and hill should be made flat. The rough ground should be made level, and the rugged ground should be made smooth. 5 Then the glory of the Lord will be shown, and all people together will see it. The Lord himself said these things.”

All the major nations had stories of gods being born, dying, and affecting humanity. But those myths were basically regional, with no “evangelist” traveling around the world telling the stories. There were no major highways to travel on, and there was no international language by which all the nations could understand. UNTIL ………

By 300 BC, the Greeks conquered the known world. The Greek language slowly became the language of commerce; therefore, many people in all the major nations spoke Greek. Then, around 146 BC, Rome began conquering the known world. But in order for thePICT0327 Roman Legions to travel efficiently and quickly, their “Army Corp of Engineers” built roads throughout the Empire. Now, that was a major, multi-year project! There were many valleys, gullies, ravines, etc. that hindered the army’s movements, so the road-builders leveled hills and used the material (rocks and dirt) to fill in nearby valleys, ravines, etc. They also cleared the level land of boulders, big rocks, etc., and actually “paved” some roads with flat stone.

Thus, “Every valley should be raised up, and every mountain and hill should be made flat. The rough ground should be made level, and the rugged ground should be made smooth.” Not 100% of all of them, but definitely those that needed leveled and/or filled to build Roman roads.

As I said, all this was for the efficient movement of the Roman Armies, for the Emperors had no concept of the coming Messiah. However, Rome also provided the world with “The Pax Romana” – The Roman Peace. That means, for a short time, there WAS a type of peace in the world, and this was the world-wide “calm” into which Jesus was born.

All this provided: 1) An international language to write and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ; 2) A relatively peaceful environment for the Messiah and the fledgling Church to be born and grow. (Of course, Rome eventually became corrupt and life became dangerous for anyone who wanted to identify with and live for the Lord Jesus Christ.) 3) An international highway system that the Apostles, Evangelists, and persecuted Christians used to spread the Gospel.

John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him.” And verse 14 informs us that “the Word” became human in the form of Jesus Christ. Therefore, when the REAL God was born into humanity, (Jesus Christ; not some Roman, Grecian, Babylonian, or Egyptian fabrication) the story was not to be a regional legend that remained secluded within the Jewish community. God wanted the entire world to know as soon as humanly possible.

earthIf Jesus had been born earlier, the world would not have been ready (no efficient highway system or international language). And if Jesus had been born much later, the relative peace would not have been in effect and the Roman Empire would have been too corrupt to allow the Church to even started. Either way would not have been “in the fullness of time.”

As a side-note: there are over 300 Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah; and they cover all areas of His life: the place of birth, where he would live, the mode of His death, the fact of His resurrection, plus a lot more. Every one of the prophecies concerning his life, death, and resurrection were fulfilled.

But there are more prophesies – those relating to his return. Since all the others were 100% fulfilled, we know the ones pointing to his return will be fulfilled. I hope you’re ready. 

Anti-Social Hummingbirds

“Hummingbirds are so cute” Carol said. We saw then flitting around the yard several times, and Carol suggested that we buy a feeder to give them a treat. At Wal-Mart we found two feeders: one for a dollar and one for six. We bought the cheaper one just to see if the critters would flock to our yard.

There are about 300 species of these aerial acrobats. They live only in the western hemisphere: twelve of which spend the summer in North America. They flap their wings from 50-200 times per second, fly up to 34 mph – even upside down, weigh up to three DSCN8828Bquarters of an ounce, average four to five inches long, have a heartbeat of 225 beats per minute at rest and up to 1,260 beats per minute in flight, and have an average lifespan of about four years.

We bought the feeder and a bag of Instant Hummingbird Nectar Concentrate. Filling the container with the red juice, we hung it on a pole just outside the dining room window so we could observe the poor little critters as they enjoyed our gift of life. At first one or two visited us, but then all activity stopped. Curious, I stepped outside to see if there was a problem with the feeder.

There wasn’t a problem with the hummingbird feeder, but with a hummingbird eater. TheDSCN8421B neighbor’s cat was waiting for breakfast to appear. But when he saw me, he sauntered off for less populated pastures.

Within minutes, a green ruby-throated hummer zoomed up. He came within six inches of the port, hovered as he looked around, nervously darted back and forth, seeing if anyone was going to attack him. He finally inserted his needle-like bill, had lunch, and zoomed to the nearest crepe-myrtle tree.

I thought he had tired himself out hovering while drinking and needed to rest. Wrong!

As Carol and I watched, two other hummers zoomed up, stopped in mid-air to see if it was safe, and approached the ports. The first critter came back at full-throttle and attacked the newcomers! Apparently, as the first visitor, this pugnacious little rascal had laid claim to my feeder.

I wanted to catch the little beast and take him miles away, but I learned that another one would just take his place. They are territorial, and it is definitely first-come-first-served. But upon reading about them, I found that they need to eat/drink more than their weight in nectar each day merely to stay alive. That alone explains why they are viciously protective of their find. It’s a fight for survival.

So, where we hoped to make life easier for these cute little creatures (that are relentlessly in search of food) by being nice to them, we were merely successful in creating a new battle-ground for them.

That reminds me of back in 1958 when my father asked me, “Would you like to see someone become angry by being nice to him?” I incredulously asked, “How can that happen?” Dad said, “Just watch.”

Relativity 15BHe called for two of my brothers. Dad gave one a dime, and the other a nickel. The one who received the nickel exclaimed, “That’s not fair! I should get a dime, too!” Dad asked, “What’s not fair about it? You both received a gift. You didn’t earn it and it is not part of your weekly allowance. It’s extra. Go spend it.” The one brother was unhappy and began fussing until Dad gave him another nickel – which was his plan anyway. Then Dad told me, “Don’t forget that lesson. It will come in handy sometime.”

It sure did. Throughout my adult life, I’ve worked to support and accrue benefits for my family. But some of our citizens are truly handicapped and cannot support themselves, so our elected leaders have made benefits available to them – and rightly so. But many others have seen “the feeder with the red juice” and zoomed up full throttle to claim and demand gifts that are not rightfully theirs.

But there is a better way to live.

If people could see who Jesus really is, see all that he offers to those of us who listen, and the minimal he asks from us in return, life would be much more meaningful. Matthew 6:33Bible says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you [assure that you have] everything you need.” Living by that principle would greatly reduce stress and result in greater fulfillment in life. 

I’ll continue feeding the hummers, but I strongly admonish you readers: live to honor Jesus, and reap his rewards.

Life Viewed From A Higher Plane

Trip with Bill and Marilyn0003Several years ago, our son (Ron) and grandsons (Josiah and Joshua) flew from Oklahoma City to the Grand Canyon. For those of you who may be geographically-challenged, one way to reach the Grand Canyon is by driving about 80 miles north-northwest out of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Since they are not birds, they flew in a single-engine low-wing airplane. Josiah was seventeen years old and was taking lessons to receive his pilot’s license; therefore, the owner of the plane (Josiah’s instructor) flew with them. The picture of Josiah in the yellow plane below is not the one he flew to the Grand Canyon.

When I asked Josiah about the flight, he said, “The flight to the Grand Canyon wasDSCN1723 wonderful! We flew in a Piper Turbo Arrow and the altimeter had a reading of about 10,000 feet for the majority of the flight. It was amazing how things appeared to be so small when we were in flight. Structures that are rather large on the ground seemed to have minimal noticeability from the air. The ground looked like a map that had been laid out beneath us, and we could see almost 100 miles in every direction.”

The Piper can fly at 19,000 feet if necessary, but it gets better fuel economy at 10,000. They took off in Oklahoma City which is already 1,200 feet above sea level, and flew to the Grand Canyon South rim which is 6,800 feet. So it appeared that they were losing altitude throughout the westward flight.

While a car will travel a mile in 51 seconds (at 70 mph), the Piper while flying about 185 mph (169 knots), will take 20 seconds to cover one mile. Several other comparisons: our car is dwarfed by the size of the 80-foot 18-wheelers, but those trucks look like ants from the plane; the country-sections (square mile plots of land) look like a checker-board; and there is a LOT LESS traffic at 10,000 feet altitude!

Put briefly: everything seems to be a lot smaller and life is much calmer when viewed from a higher plane. (Excuse the pun.)

Do you know that can be said about us while living in our every-day life here on the ground? Mothers with babies can get tied-up-in-knots as they try to balance home-making and tending to the needs of the family. Adults can get caught in the proverbial rat-race while trying to make a living and making ends meet. Administrators and managers can lose sight of the goal in the midst of financial and employee crises. Pastors and elders can lose their sensitivity to the Lord while attempting to counsel parishioners, balance the budget and building the church. And people can get totally dis-oriented and derailed in the midst of hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Life can become one grand maelstrom!

PICT1706But things are much calmer when we view our situations from a higher plane – from God’s perspective. Josiah said, “Flying in a plane presents a good comparison of what God sees when looking at our lives. As we need to trust our flight instruments, we also need to trust and obey with the understanding that He sees the big picture.”

Josiah is correct: in the midst of your personal storm – whatever it is – ask the Lord to help you rise above the problems and see the bigger picture. Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:19, “What you meant for evil, God used for good.”

Therefore, it is possible that the bad that seems to be happening to you might be allowed by God in order to bring something better into your life. But planned or not, if we trust God with our lives and obey Him, He can bring good out of every situation. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

If your storm is a result of your own error or sin, repent; ask the Lord to forgive you and to help you to rectify the situation. Did you lose your job? Ask the Lord for direction. Is your marriage on the rocks? Don’t blame God or ask him to help you get a divorce; rather, ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance. Are your finances lacking? Ask the Lord for wisdom on how to live within your available income – then you can ask Him for guidance regarding increased income.earth

Ask the Lord to help you see life the way he sees it. Life is calmer from his vantage point because we can see from a wider perspective. God enables us to see the causes of our problems and how to resolve them; and there is a lot less frustration, less worry, and much more peace when we view life from a higher plane.