Pray for Others

A friend sent a rather lengthy tale to me several decades ago, but I never learned the identity of the author. The story is not a historical account, but more like a parable to illustrate a moral, and the following is a portion of the narrative.

**************

A ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men survived and managed to get to a small island. Not knowing what else to do, they agreed that they had no other recourse but to pray to God.

The first thing the one man prayed for was food. The next morning, he saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the island, but the other man’s parcel of land remained barren.

However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.

After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a puppy. The next day, he found a pooch swimming to his side of the island. On the other side of the island, nothing came ashore.

Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. Each time, somehow, the food and the material for all of these came ashore.  However, the second man still had nothing. The first man did, begrudgingly, share some of his food with him.

Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his puppy could leave the island. By morning, the wind had blown a deserted boat to his side of the island. He boarded the boat with his puppy and decided to leave the second man on the island.

He thought the other man was unworthy to receive God’s blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered.

As he was about to leave, he heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”

“My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them. His prayers were all unanswered and so he doesn’t deserve anything.”

“You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you wouldn’t have received any of my blessings.”

“What did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”

“His only prayer these past two months was that I would answer your prayers.”

**************

In the legend, both men initially understood their plight, realized that prayer was the only recourse available to them, and amicably began their experiment.

The reason this stood out so strongly to me is that I’ve seen the same qualities in people wherever I go. Some folks are humble, good-hearted, and want what’s best for others. They go out of their way, even to the point of depriving themselves of some benefits of life so they can reduce the hurt and pain others are experiencing. These people are obeying Jesus.

But I’ve also seen other folks who are out to get what they can for themselves. Not helping others in a material way, these self-centered people sometimes go out of their way to destroy reputations, mock others, and make life hard for their imagined enemies.

What those self-absorbed people don’t understand is, the people they are attempting to hurt could be cherished friends if allowed to be.

But let’s continue about the fable above, and perhaps we should reconsider the concept of prayer.

The blessings we receive might not always be the fruit of our prayers alone, but are perhaps benefits from others praying for us. I can write a book about dangerous and life-threatening situations people have faced and how they escaped or survived, but I’ll tell about only one.

My father was in the USS Yorktown during WWII, heading for what would erupt into the Battle of Midway. A terrible fear gripped dad’s mind and he couldn’t do his job. Five thousand miles away, mom had a powerful burden to pray for him … not even knowing where in the world he was. After an hour of intense prayer, mom stopped praying, and the fear suddenly lifted from dad’s mind. Unknown to dad, God answered mom’s prayers.

I encourage all you who are reading this blog: when someone comes to your mind, pray for him or her. Pray however you feel like it, but pray. You may be the “ministering angel” God uses to rescue or help someone.

Happy New Year, Friends

On December 31, 2020, Carol and I spent a quiet New Year’s celebration together. It was relaxing because from 2011 through 2020, we had been home on December 31 only four times. We’d been in California on New Year’s Eve five times and in Florida once. And this past New Year’s Eve we were in New Mexico.

Several friends asked, “Can’t sit still, can ya?” My response is normally, “You find no moss under my wheels.” And we’ve driven over 29,000 miles in 2021.

It’s well-known by our families, friends, and those who read my articles that we enjoy living in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. All cities, towns, and villages have their problems, but we’ve found this town to be one of the more pleasant places we’ve lived. With that in mind, why do we “hit the road” so often?

One quick answer is: our five kids live in five different states, and my siblings are spread out from the West Coast to the East Coast. We enjoy visiting them. We also have the privilege of preaching and teaching in our travels.

A second answer is: we enjoy seeing God’s creation first-hand. Seeing nature in books and on video is great. But nothing beats driving through the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, seeing the Giant Redwoods in northern California, the amazing Oregon Coast, Puget Sound in the great northwest, the red granite beaches of Maine, the snow-white beaches of Siesta Beach in Florida, seeing Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, and HUNDREDS of other places.

We also enjoy seeing the marvels of man’s creation, such as Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, the 605-foot-tall Space Needle in Seattle, and the 630-foot-tall Arch in St. Louis.

Historic sites such as the Yorktown, Virginia battlefield, the Gettysburg Battlefield, and Pearl Harbor cause me to stop and contemplate how different life might have been if the political and military tide had turned the other way.

The third answer is: we’re getting older, and some day our travel days will be over. So let’s travel while we can.

As we travel, we take thousands of pictures to document where we’ve been and what we saw. You see many of them in these blogs. We’re grateful for digital photography, because that’s a lot less expensive than the film we bought in the past. We often get our pictures out (on computer or another device) and through our memory, we enjoy those trips again.

The ability to remember amazes me. When I get to heaven, I want to ask God how He created memory. But I think He’ll simply say: That’s My secret.

As I mentally gaze on our blessings this past year, I’m fully aware that many people have died, others have gotten sick, many have lost homes and businesses due to pandemics, government mistakes, the natural flow of economics, and natural disasters. But sickness, wars, governmental problems, business failures, and all the other problems and catastrophes have been going on since shortly after Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. As we read in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

The emphasis is: there’s nothing new under the sun. We have modern means of traveling, conducting war, studying, and getting work done, but the essence of life hasn’t changed throughout man’s history. Sickness, death, and all other problems related to life on earth will continue until Jesus stops it. And He will return one day.

But if He doesn’t return soon enough, I will die too. I don’t know by what means, but I will die, and the thought doesn’t bother me at all. Why not? Because that’s life.

In the same concept as midnight on December 31 starts a new year, or a baby being born starts a new life, when my traveling days are over and I breathe my last on earth, I will start a new year, a brand-new life in heaven. It’s part of the Christian’s cycle of life.

However, as badly as I feel for those who have been hurt by various events on earth, I feel worse for those who die while not believing in Jesus Christ. We can start over after a catastrophe on earth, but when we die without faith in Jesus, there is no recovery. Think about it.

It’s all about Jesus

December 25 was a special day of the year. Having said that, you might expect this to be about Christmas. But have you ever … wait a minute. Let’s start somewhere else.

 Joy to the World the Lord Has Come! Angels We Have Heard on High…. Those songs, and others, were prompted by the message given to the shepherds out in the fields with their sheep. Silent Night, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, and many others, were written about a special baby that was born. We Three Kings, and others, were written about several Persian noblemen who visited Joseph, Mary, and the toddler Jesus about a year later in their home.

Who was this famous baby that changed the world? Or, since babies don’t change society, the question should be, Who is this Person that changed the world?

The Book of Matthew starts with Jesus’ genealogy, then verse 18 begins the detailed account of his birth. Mark starts with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Luke starts with the history behind Luke’s Gospel, then verse 26 begins a detailed account of Jesus’ birth. But the Gospel of John starts prior to the beginning of mankind and prior to the creation of the earth.

John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 3 tells us the Word created everything in the universe. Verse 14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

John 1:2 bounces me back to Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” By this we know that the Word, Jesus, Who had no beginning, created the cosmos.

Okay, now we can think about Christmas, December 25. Was Jesus born at this time of year? Probably not, but that’s another story and don’t worry about it. We’re celebrating the birth of the Person mentioned in John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1 – God in human form. He is the greatest dichotomy of all time. For the first – and only – time in history, a real God was born as a human.

The Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and many others developed myths, legends, and fantasies of gods creating themselves, gods being born, gods squabbling over territorial rights, fighting and killing each other, and a whole lot more. Their pantheons of gods were memorials of either great imaginations, or possibly of demon activity within mankind’s history.

Many citizens of those nations worshipped their gods out of fear, and offered sacrifices, including their own children, to those gods to appease their anger and to gain good business ventures and harvests.

But Genesis 1:1, John 1:1, and the remainder of Scripture tell a different story. The one and only God did not create Himself, because He never had a beginning. He is The Great I Am. God didn’t come to squabble or fight with anyone. Instead, He came to give life, redeem us, give peace, forgiveness, security, and a lot more. It would cost Him His natural life to accomplish it. But He came prepared with that in mind, and nothing would deter Him from fulfilling His mission.

The angels told Mary to name the baby Jehoshua, which means Jehovah is salvation. Through time, it was shortened to Joshua, and through Latin influence, we eventually have the name Jesus.

Have you ever thought about all that? That’s what Christmas is all about. (Christ-mas: a mass or meeting about Christ.)

“In the little village of Bethlehem, there lay a Child one day, and the sky was bright with a holy light, o’er the place where Jesus lay.

“’Twas a humble birthplace, but O how much God gave to us that day, from the manger bed what a path was led, what a perfect, holy way.

“Alleluia! How the angels sang. Alleluia, how it rang! And the sky was bright with a holy light, ‘twas the birthday of a King.”  By William Harold Neidlinger; 1890.

Display your lights, give gifts, share your meals – either scrumptious or meager. Listen to concerts, sing the Hallelujah Chorus and Christmas carols. Visit family, renew friendships.

But always keep in mind why Jesus came. Even as a baby, He was God. But He came to grow up and give His life for us so that we may have eternal life with Him in heaven.

The wonderful greeting of Merry Christmas is joyful, beautiful, and fitting one month out of the year, but Praising God and blessing people is fitting all year long. Be kind to one another and help others in this difficult time in history.

Dickens and Christmas

Have you heard about the movie: The Man Who Invented Christmas?

Chris Knight, chief film critic for the National Post, said, “The movie is based on Les Standiford’s long-winded historical non-fiction from 2008, The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits.” Knight also said of the movie, “By all rights, The Man Who Invented Christmas should be a humbug. Instead, it’s a humdinger.”

Charles John Huffam Dickens was a prolific writer. One article says he is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era, and that he created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters. Several of them are: Jack Dawkins, the pick-pocket in Oliver Twist; Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol; Mr. Pott, the editor in The Pickwick Papers; and David Copperfield in David Copperfield.

Dickens was a prolific writer. But did he invent Christmas? Humbug!

But some pagan activities did intermingle with the sacred celebration.

Another commentary is from Ronald Hutton, an historian at Bristol University in the UK. He said, “It’s a mistake to say that our modern Christmas tradition comes directly from pre-Christian paganism. However, you’d be equally wrong to believe that Christmas is a modern phenomenon. As Christians spread their religion into Europe in the first centuries A.D., they ran into people living by a variety of local and regional religious creeds.”

One report says: “A Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas evolved over two millennia into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian, pagan traditions into the festivities along the way. Today, Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together and exchange gifts.”  (history.com/topics/christmas)

Philip Shaw, who researches early Germanic languages and Old English at Leicester University in the UK, said, “Early Christians wanted to convert pagans to Christianity, but they were also fascinated by their [pagan] traditions.”

Stephen Nissenbaum, author of “The Battle for Christmas”; Vintage, 1997) made a good case for an old Christmas celebration when he said, “If you want to show that Jesus was a real human being, not just somebody who appeared like a hologram, then what better way to think of him being born in a normal, humble human way than to celebrate his birth?”

Christmas celebrations developed independently around the world for almost 2,000 years. And why not? Jesus’ birth was probably one of the two most important events in the history of the world!

And that’s why we celebrate Christmas – God became man in order to redeem us and restore our fellowship with Himself. And he came as a baby, born in a manger.

But as mentioned previously, many of the Christmas festivities became corrupted. Instead of candlelight services or worship services, rowdy and drunken revelries became common. Therefore, many protestants rejected paganized Christmas celebrations. Early Protestants wanted to honor Jesus Christ, our Savior – not have a festivity which obscured Christ. Denouncing sin and frivolity, they gave necessities for life as gifts; avoiding superficial parties, they shared sacred meals.

But as some Protestants squelched the pagan revelry surrounding Christmas, they also put down anything associated with Christmas celebrations. They threw out the baby with the bathwater. In this case, they threw out observing the birth of Jesus with the pagan celebrations.

Enter Charles Dickens.

Noting societal debauchery, prevalent poverty, and abusive child labor in the 1840s, Dickens vowed to do something about it – and writing was what he did best. In six weeks, he wrote A Christmas Carol. If you’ve read it, you know why it became an immediate best-seller.

Dickens wanted to insert joy and gladness into a life filled with drudgery, dreariness and death. Without ignoring the seriousness of life, he portrayed the Spirit of Christmas filled with miracles and laughter. He also reminded society of the importance of blessing others by caring for those around them.

Did Dickens invent Christmas? No. But he did encourage joy and human-kindness, and inspired a positive change in society.

Jesus, who is God (John 1:1-3), came to earth to restore man’s relationship with himself. But he came as a baby (Matthew 1, Luke 1) so, as he grew, he could personally experience mankind’s trials, hardships, and joys.

Jesus loves you and desires for you to know him as he is today – God and Savior.

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season.

This is Getting Close to the End of the Year.

Sunset on November 27, 2021 in Siloam Springs, Arkansas
We feel like time travelers.

Can you believe it? This year is almost over, and 2022 is about to begin! 2021 has been a busy year for Carol and me. We’ve traveled over 29,000 miles – yes, we drove every one of them – and we feel like we’ve traveled through time. We’ve also seen a lot of beautiful scenery. 

I’ve also formatted dozens of books for folks, and written a few myself. One I’ve worked on for quite a while, and finally put in print this year, is a compilation of my Reflections on Life articles. If you want a book that is easy to read, yet is chalk-full of information on numerous topics, get this book.  It contains about 77 short articles that will let you travel through time from ancient history to now. You’ll read about topics from geology to history to Bible to astronomy, plus a whole lot more!

Now that I think about it, you might want to have your own books published, and we can do that for you for a low fee. So go to plpubandlit.com and check us out. You’ll find our prices are very hard to beat, especially when you see the quality of work we do. When you call us, you don’t get a recording very often because we enjoy talking with our clients, and giving personal service.

P & L Publishing and Literary Services also provides professional editing services. Look us up at P & L Publishing & Literary Services – Expert Formatting & Editing for Self-Publishing Your Book (plpubandlit.com).

If you have a book or books you’ve been thinking of writing and publishing, you’ll enjoy checking out our web site at plpubandlit.com. We’ll be glad to help your literary dreams become a reality.

Christmas is almost here, with New Year’s just around the corner. Please drive carefully, and live in such a manner that you will be safe and help others be safe.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

AND

HAPPY NEW YEAR, FRIENDS.

What Should We Do?

When people slander you, what do you feel like doing? When someone hurls insults in your face and maligns your integrity, how should you respond? What does human nature demand?

Please hear this: when we respond in our fallen human nature, war breaks out!

I grew up in a family of 10 kids, and if you know anything about children, peace does not always freely reign. We could sing When Peace Like a River Attendeth my Way, Let There be Peace in the Valley, or Peace On Earth, Goodwill Toward Men all we wanted to, but when one of us was offensive, only Dad or Mom could break us up. That’s fallen human nature. Why are we that way?

Now, lest my siblings find this and read it, I want to affirm that we had a lot of fun and have a barrel of good memories. Our family memoir, Looking Through the Rearview Mirror, bears this out. But we did have war at times. You might enjoy reading about the adventures and misadventures of our family, and can order the book at: https://www.amazon.com/Looking-Through-Rearview-Mirror-Linzey-ebook/dp/B09JM3N5TD/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1634619105&sr=1-2

When emotions get riled up, words tend to fly out of the mouth that might not be true. But if there is any truth to the words, the angry person tends to blow it out of proportion. And this problem is not relegated to children. Adults from 18 to 100 are just as guilty.

So, how should we react when someone attempts to destroy our character? How should we respond when someone broadcasts his or her disdain for us?

The wrong answer is to fight back; to fight fire with fire. Bristling, getting huffy, and trying to set that person straight tends to prove the angry person’s accusations.

There are several versions of the right answer. But since I have a habit of giving simple answers, let me give you one right now although I’m not the author of it.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, “I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (KJV).

The Aramaic Bible in Plain English says it this way, “I say to you, love your enemies and bless the one who curses you, and do what is beautiful to the one who hates you, and pray over those who take you by force and persecute you.”

But eighteen of twenty-eight versions I read simply say something very close to, “I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you.”

Loving others simply means, be kind to them.

When I was twelve years old, one of my school-mates hollered, “Your family isn’t fit for a pack of wolves!” When I complained to Dad, he said, “If kids say things like that, just respond, You’re right. we can’t stoop that low.” A few days later when the junior high school thug hurled another similar epithet, I responded as Dad suggested. Amazingly, that was the end of the potential feud.

The old saying, it takes two to tango, can be applied to many situations. Recently, when a man who despises my worldview hurled hateful words at me in a public setting, I told him I considered him a friend. Was he friendly? Of course not, but his actions do not mandate my reaction. I purposely chose to respond in the manner that Jesus taught, and I pray for the man.

Getting angry raises our blood pressure and increases our cholesterol level, both of which are hard on the heart. Anger confuses us and immerses us in a moral quandary. Angry people don’t merely offend people they dislike, it puts a wedge between them and their friends.

An angry person develops a hollow feeling that cannot be filled. The person then has a compound-problem: he must amplify angry emotions and increase his outbursts to justify the feelings of hate. As the situation intensifies, a false reality develops which deepens the deception.

What should angry people do? If they enjoy being angry, they’ll continue as they are. But if they want peace in their lives, they’ll need to realize that the answer to the problem comes from Jesus and can be found in the Bible.

Jesus, the Prince of peace, wants to heal us of our self-inflicted problems, and as Philippians 4:7 says, Jesus gives us peace that cannot be adequately explained.

What else should we do? Follow Jesus’ example and forgive those who offend you. You’ll be happier and healthier if you do.

The Passion Play

In our daily Bible study, we were reading about the Israelites at Mount Sinai and the Ark of the Covenant, and we wanted to see if we would be allowed to tour the Holy Land site in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It was only a 2-hour trip, so we hit the road.

When we arrived, we were surprised to learn that the Passion Play was to be presented that evening, and our granddaughter had never seen the play. We quickly bought tickets for the play and for the buffet dinner merely 150 yards away. Touring the Holy Land site would wait for another visit. The meal was wonderful.

I may be mistaken, but I think most of you have read the account of the last weeks of Jesus’ life, His arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection in the New Testament. You might have seen a portrayal at church during Passover or Easter or seen a movie about it. But have you ever seen it live at Eureka Springs, or at Oberammergau, Germany? Seeing it like that enables the reality of the event to sink deep into our emotions and our mind.

The Passion Play in Eureka Springs started in 1968, but the production in Germany has been performed every year from 1634 to 1680, and one summer each decade since 1680, with the characters played by the inhabitants of the village of Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany. However, it was postponed in 2020 because of the pandemic, but will be presented in May of 2022.

The producers send scouts throughout the town and recruit those who look like they might fit one of the Biblical characters.

I don’t remember what decade in the 1900s this was, but as a scout was looking for someone to play the part of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, he saw a man who appeared to be down on his luck. He looked disheveled, scruffy, unkempt. The scout asked him if he would be willing to be Judas in the upcoming production.

The man looked at the scout, eyes opened wide, then filled with tears as he began to cry. The scout immediately apologized, thinking he had offended or insulted the citizen, but the shabbily-dressed man motioned for him to wait a minute. Regaining his composure, the man said, “Ten years ago I was a well-to-do businessman in town and a valued member of our church. I was highly respected throughout our community. Ten years ago, I played the part of Jesus.” He began sobbing again as he ambled around the corner and out of sight. What happened to him? Did pride overtake him after playing the part of Jesus? Probably.

I’ve never been to Oberammergau, but I have seen the production five times in Eureka Springs. It’s amazing that I, a spectator, a student of the Bible, can be emotionally and spiritually impacted by watching this highly-professional Bible production, but one who played the most important part of the play in Oberammergau, that of Jesus Christ, lost his sense of reality, lost his job, lost his family, and seemingly lost his identity.

Many of us today are also hurting in some area of our life. Some of us are angry at God because He won’t play by our rules. Some of us have become arrogant and use scripture against the One who inspired the writing of Scripture. Some of us hurl insults at God and at His people, thinking that we are hurting them.

Please understand that you are hurting only yourself and those close to you. You can never hurt God; He’s above that. The hurt, the suffering, the torture, the excruciating anguish Jesus experienced was associated with bearing our sin while being beaten half to death, then mercilessly crucified. All for us. Why? Because He loves us. Jesus loves you!

Jesus came to give us peace and life. He came to help us establish our identity and help us identify with God.

I don’t know if the man in Oberammergau ever played the part of Judas, but I hope he eventually restored his relationship with Jesus.

Please understand, God doesn’t play by our rules. The Creator of the universe has His own rules, and He came to give us eternal life.

The Meandering River of Life

The Büyük Menderes River is the longest river in Turkey that twists and turns in a tortuous path as it rushes to the Aegean Sea. The name Menderes is a derivation of Maiandros which is transliterated into English as Meander, and that name has become prominent in our culture.

A good illustration of meandering is when my dog and I walked the three-quarter mile dirt road to our mailbox when we lived in the mountains of northern New Mexico. For every 50 feet I walked, Tyke ran to-and-fro about 200 feet. Another illustration is the Ohio River which flows from Pittsburg, PA to Cairo, IL. The Ohio is 981 miles long, but Cairo is only 549 miles from Pittsburg by helicopter. The meandering nearly doubles the distance.

Due to natural causes such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, and hurricanes, river paths change at times. Dad was raised in McAllen, Texas which isn’t far from Brownsville. Years ago, Dad said, “Brownsville is usually in the United States. But during flood stage, the Rio Grande changes course, flows north of Brownsville, and puts the town in Mexico.”

Of course, Dad was joking about Brownsville being in Mexico, but the Rio Grande did change course at times before the flood-control dams were built.

Not only has the Mississippi River changed course, but it also flowed backwards several times. The first time that we know about was after an earthquake in 1812, and the reverse flow generated a tsunami which wiped out a pirate’s den on a river island. When it resumed its southern flow, it cut a new channel and a portion of its course had changed. The second time was in 2005 when it reversed its flow for several hours during Hurricane Katrina. The third time was in 2012 when Hurricane Isaac forced the southern end of the river to flow backwards for 24 hours. You probably read about the mess it caused up and down the river.

As Carol and I were driving from Bloomington, IN to Worthington, IN last month, I turned onto a road that wasn’t on the map. It was headed in a northerly direction, and I knew I would get to my destination. The road meandered every-which-way like a stream trying to find its way to the ocean. Nevertheless, it was relaxing until we reached a T in the road with no indication as to which way we should go. Frustration was about to raise its ugly head, but a man in an old rusty car stopped and asked where we wanted to go. We told him, he told us to turn right, and peace reigned again. The road took us to Worthington, and we joined up with our son and his family.

Then while assisting our son in building his home, I came into contact with poison ivy. That changed my life for a month.

Events throughout life generate corporate change as well. Businesses closed and people lost employment because of our reaction to the recent pandemic. War affects political and financial decisions. I officiated at the funeral of a dear friend in Kentucky recently. Direction in life changed dramatically for that family.

Life is like a meandering river. Change is ever-present. Confusion is prevalent. Emotions are visible and anger often flares.

But stop. Let’s not react negatively. Change is guaranteed almost every day, so how do we establish and maintain a steady course?

The captain and helmsman of the ship must know the river. Sam Clemens, known as Mark Twain, studied the Mississippi and knew every turn. Some captains hired cheap help and lost their vessels to rocks, hidden logs, and erratic shorelines, but Mark Twain kept his boats in safe water.

As we sail the meandering river of life, we need help in keeping our “ships” in safe water. We dare not trust our lives to myths, fables, imaginations, and humanistic religions. We need a solid anchor with a reliable chain that keep us secure during the storms of life.

That anchor is Jesus Christ, and the double-chain consists of the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 14:26, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” So read what Jesus said in the Bible.

Jesus our guide in the meandering river of life. You can trust Him.

Walking Toward the Light

I spent three hours working through a research problem, and I needed to stretch my legs and clear my mind.

“Precious, “I’m going for a short walk. Would you like to go with me?”

“It’s 9 o’clock, it’s dark, it’s cold, and no. I don’t want to go for a walk.”

“The walk will be good for you.”

“It’ll be better for me to stay warm here in the RV.”

“Okay; I’ll be back in ten or fifteen minutes. I love you.”

“I love you, too. Take your jacket.”

I didn’t take the jacket because it was still 69 degrees outside; but I didn’t realize it was so dark! I turned on the RV porch light but it is quite dim, and I couldn’t see the moon. Oh well, I’ll just step carefully, and my feet will let me know where the path is.

After walking about twenty paces past the car, I quickly stopped. Something wasn’t right.

I reached out with my right hand and felt prickly pine needles that I couldn’t see. I also couldn’t see my hand. I rubbed my foot on the ground and discovered I was off the path. Because it was dark and I didn’t use the porch light as a point of reference, I hadn’t walked in a straight line.

Well, what do you know? I thought. I’m off the road. My plan didn’t work out the way I thought it would. Hmmm … Carol might gloat over this.

I looked around and saw the RV porch light, but I still couldn’t find the moon. (I later discovered it hiding behind some clouds.)

Walking toward the light, I returned to the RV.

“I thought you were going to be gone for ten or fifteen minutes. What happened? Where’s your jacket?”

“I didn’t need the coat, but it’s a good thing you didn’t go with me.”

“I know: it’s cold and dark.”

Here comes the gloating.

“Believe-it-or-not, Precious, unless I was looking toward the RV, I couldn’t see my hand in front of me.”

“You were smart to come back. I told you it was … oh, never mind. You want some coffee?”

She didn’t gloat. I love her! “Yes, thank you.”

That three-minute episode in the dark reminded me of a recent news report. A man on a 4-day back-country hike found the body of a woman who had been missing for over two months. Apparently, she didn’t file a plan with the forest rangers, nor had she told friends or family where she planned to hike; and a compass was not in her backpack.

Without proper planning, it is easy to get lost!

What do we need for a successful outing? First, tell someone where you’re going.

Next, REI co-op (https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/ten-essentials.html) lists ten essential things: navigation (such as map, compass, GPS, etc.), headlamp and extra batteries, sun protection, first aid kit, knife, fire-starters, shelter, extra food, water, and clothing.

The REI author said, “The exact items from each system that you take can be tailored to the trip you’re taking. For example, on a short day hike that’s easy to navigate you might choose to take a map, compass and PLB, but leave your GPS and altimeter behind. On a longer, more complex outing, you might decide you want all those tools to help you find your way. When deciding what to bring, consider factors like weather, difficulty, duration, and distance from help.”

That is good advice, but many people are short-sighted and don’t invest the time to learn about it.

I find the same goes for people traversing this journey we call life. They are raised to fend for themselves and fight to get ahead – often by stepping on others. But they do not plan for the longer journey: the one that begins at death. Without planning for this final trip, it is easy to get lost – permanently.

What do we need? The map is the Bible and is also our most valuable point of reference. Food and water are wisdom and knowledge we learn in the Bible. The headlamp is the Holy Spirit; He will help us see life properly and walk straight. Clothing is the helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, and the rest of the spiritual armor found in Ephesians 6:11-18. God, Himself, is our shelter.

Your most important trip is ahead of you. Plan well for it by reading the Bible and learning to live for the Lord. Walk toward the Light.

What Did God Say?

God said, “Let us make man in our image.” And when I say “God,” I mean Jehovah, YHWH, the Creator, the Supreme God in the Bible. So, if we’re made in His image, what does God look like? Has anyone seen Him?

Not lately, but Abraham might have, Moses saw God’s afterglow, and Adam conversed with God daily – for a while.

Scripture tells us: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God is a spiritual being, and we are spiritual beings who live inside human bodies. Mankind was the high point of God’s creative work here on earth. God created us as an entirely new species, quite different from animals. And to emphasize this distinction, God placed man over the animals. In Genesis 1:28 God told Adam, “Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Animals can’t do that.

How else are we different from critters? Evolutionist Julian Huxley noted that “only humans possess true language, conceptual thought, art, humor, science and religion.” And I add, only humans can record and direct the course of history. Humans can express themselves analytically and it is obvious that only humans have the ability to communicate through complex, multi-lingual skills. All this sets mankind apart from the animal kingdom.

And, quite interestingly, only humans have the ability to deny the existence of God.

Marriage is another example of how we’re made in the image of God. Adam and Eve’s union was much more significant than two beings openly mating in the jungle. Marriage was specifically one man with one woman. Marriage is a compassionate, loving, fruitful, social, and spiritual union.

As humans who are made in the image of God, we reflect many attributes of our heavenly Father. These spiritual and moral attributes allow us to commune and fellowship with people as well as with God. Attributes like love, mercy, and justice are only three examples of Godly qualities available to mankind. God created us to enjoy relationship with each other, but specifically, He made us to enjoy relationship with Him. God wants us to interact with Him and to be in fellowship with Him. This is not the nature of animals.

Some people say mankind is no greater than the animal kingdom and is why man should limit his population growth while protecting the animal species. I suppose they haven’t noticed several animal traits that civilized humanity does not endorse.

Such as: Some animals eat their own kind, but we do not condone cannibalism. Some animals kill and eat their offspring, but we don’t condone infanticide or eating our babies. (Correction: misguided and disobedient humans do commit infanticide in the form of abortion.) Animals don’t care for the elderly, but because of Godly compassion, humans do care for the elderly. Animals do not have the skills and ability to change their society, but man has created great civilizations and been to the moon and back. Animals have continued their lives without change for the past recorded 6,000 years. Chickens live as they have throughout history. Their change in living quarters is because of man.

When you hear or read some scientists say that 98% of our genes are shared with some animals, don’t get excited about it. They also say we share about 50% of our genes with bananas, so what might that mean? I think those statistics are meaningless.

Only humans can experience faith in God. However, it appears that some people were not happy with that arrangement and have created their own imaginary deities. Humans have the ability to choose to worship God or themselves; to acknowledge Almighty God as sovereign or claim another personage (human, spirit, tree, rock) as either a sovereign or co-existent deity. Humans gather for the purpose of worshiping a deity corporately. Animals cannot do any of this.

But of all earthly creations, only man can worship and trust our Creator and enter into a relationship with Him.  

God is a communicator Who cares for us and guides those who listen to Him. He made us to help others. He defeated sin and death through the death and resurrection of Jesus so that we can be with Him and enjoy our relationship with Him forever.

What did God say? Let us make man in our image.” And He did. But God gave us the authority to decide how we will use the attributes He gave us. How are you using them?

%d bloggers like this: