I Can’t Get Lost

1951 Del Mar FairWhen I was five years old, my parents took my four sisters and me to the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, California. My paternal grandparents went with us, so Dad was not paying as close attention to me as he normally did.

We entered the east gate and the first exhibit we encountered was the reptile building. Snakes, especially big ones like the boa constrictor and anaconda, had my attention. Boas and anacondas are non-poisonous constrictors and kill their prey by squeezing them. Green anacondas grow to about 30 feet, weigh up to 550 pounds, and live about 10 years; while boas can grow to 14 feet long, weigh up to 100 pounds, and live up to 30 years. Female Boas can give birth to litters of up to 60 live babies that are two feet long.

I was spell-bound by the size of these critters and was fascinated by the way they moved, so I didn’t notice when the family walked away. Dad probably called my name and expected me to follow, but I heard nothing because of the high volume of thoughts racing around the corridors of my little mind.

At one point, a sheriff walked up to me and asked, “Son, are you lost?” Startled, I said, “I’m not lost because I know where daddy’s car is.” Because of the potential for getting lost in a crowd, dad ALWAYS made sure we knew where the car was.

When the sheriff asked me where my parents were, I looked around, and not seeing them I said, “I guess my mommy and daddy are lost.” Chuckling at the rationale of this five-year-old, the sheriff took my hand and said, “Well, let’s go and find them.”

We hadn’t walked far when I saw dad walking quickly toward us. I said, “That’s my daddy!” When the sheriff asked, “What’s his name?” I said, “Daddy.”

“Well”, he said, chuckling again, “I guess your daddy’s not lost anymore.” After explaining the situation to dad, he suggested to him “go light on the boy” and not punish me. But he also advised him to keep a tighter rein on me.

This concept of not being lost has followed me through life. It doesn’t matter where I am, I’m never lost because I always have a fixed point of reference. Whether it was daddy’s car as a child or my home as an adult, I always have a “home base.”

Oh, I might have an interesting time finding a place where I have never been – Carol calls that getting lost. But for me, “being lost” is not knowing how to get back to the house. But I don’t get lost because even without a GPS unit, I always know how to get back home and that brings comfort to my soul. I have a deep-seated security knowing where home is and how to get there.

Carol seldom drives on our trips because I enjoy driving. But one time I needed a break so she drove for several hours. When I woke, she said that she might have made a wrong turn and wanted to know what to do. I waited for a few minutes to see the next highway sign. I knew we were in Illinois, so when I saw South I-57 I said “We’re not lost. Keep going until you reach I-70 and turn west. That will take us toward Saint Louis, and that’s the direction for going home.”

When Carol and I decide to stop traveling, we know that someday we will have one last trip to make. That will be an exciting trip because we know our destination – heaven. We know how to get there – having accepted Jesus into our lives, He will take us. We know how long it will take to get there – immediately upon breathing our last here on earth. And we won’t have to pack anything because we will take nothing with us.dscn0464

Oh, at times I forget to follow Jesus closely, such as when I lingered too long at the reptile building at the fair. But when I ask the Lord to forgive me, I quickly get back on track.

Jesus, as presented in the Bible, is my fixed point of reference. Because I’ll serve Him and live for Him to the best of my ability for the rest of my life, I’ll never be lost. Have you made appropriate plans for your last trip?

A Life Saved

I don’t know the best way to describe this man, but his life was a mess. I’ll call him Joe. He was recently fired from his job, and his wife filed for a divorce with a corresponding restraining order. His children – one was nine years old and the other fifteen – were afraid of him. Simply put, he was an alcoholic and was abusive to his wife and kids.

Joe started drinking alcohol in elementary school by sneaking it when his parents were away from home. Oh, the family went to church and put on a good façade for the community; and most folk thought they were a fine family. Very few people knew the mental and spiritual torment the family was experiencing.

Because they had their own problems, Joe’s parents didn’t learn of his alcohol problem until Joe left home. After Joe’s parents’ messy divorce, his father committed suicide.

As Joe entered adulthood, he prided himself in being able to drink on the job, yet effectively perform his vocational responsibilities. As with so many alcoholics, he thought he was hiding the problem; but his friends, vocational associates, and family were covering for him.

Let me say here: “protecting” the alcoholic is the worst thing anyone can do for him or her: it prevents potential recovery. We shouldn’t condemn the alcoholic, but don’t cover for them.

Joe’s life went from bad to worse. I won’t go into the details, but the police department began building a file on him. Then Joe remembered his dad. Swearing early in life never to be like his father, Joe had, in reality, become just like him. Now, thinking there was nothing left in life for him, Joe found himself considering the same final action: suicide.

He stole a pistol and ammunition, robbed a liquor store (took whiskey and money), and went to a motel in a run-down part of town. Sitting on the edge of the bed with loaded weapon in hand, he thought maybe he should write a note to explain to whoever found him why he did it. Opening the top drawer in the nightstand to get a pen and paper, he became angry when he realized that the cheap motel wouldn’t even provide writing material. But he did see a book in the drawer.

Curiosity prompted him to look into the book before killing himself, so he picked it up to see what it was about. The title on the cover said, “Holy Bible”, and there was a round logo on the bottom with the words, “Placed by The Gideons.”

“Who are they?” Joe wondered as he opened the Bible. It seemed to fall open to the Gospel of John, and Joe began reading something he had never read before: “In the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Joe wondered who the Word was, so he kept reading. Verse fourteen started with, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”

This was all new to Joe. Having nothing to lose, he decided to read a lot more before ending his miserable existence. By the time Joe had finished reading the Gospel of John, it was getting light outside and tears were running down his face. Something was happening inside of him. He blurted out, “Do you love me, Jesus?” No Answer.

Hiding the firearm, Joe called a local church. “There’s probably no one there to answer my questions” he muttered to himself. But amazingly, the pastor answered the phone. After listening for several minutes, the pastor invited Joe to breakfast. Time with the pastor lasted through lunch and into dinner. Joe finally met someone who could answer many of the questions he had asked for most of his life.

Because of that Gideon Bible, Joe reached out for help.

At thirty-eight years of age, Joe was introduced to Jesus Christ and Joe’s torment was over. Don’t misunderstand: he still had many issues to face and reconcile; but the pastor promised to walk with him every step of the way if Joe would give him the gun and whisky, and permit him to call the police. Joe did, and his healing began.

God’s word in that Bible, backed up by someone who cared, saved Joe’s life. This is only one of many thousands of real-life examples of how the Lord saves and changes lives.

If you are facing frustration, misery, and confusion, don’t end your life. Instead, start a new life with the One Who loves you and died for you. Turn to Jesus. He might not solve all your problems, but He can guide you and help you do what’s necessary to solve them. And find a Christ-honoring friend who can lead you in the right direction.

Your future doesn’t need to look bleak – it can look bright.

Do You Plan Ahead?

Yesterday (as of this writing) Carol and I were driving from Rogers to Fayetteville (Arkansas). We took the Sunset Blvd. exit in Springdale, and were waiting for the green light. We were headed for Denny’s on the east side of the I-49 freeway. Three vehicles were in front of us. It was 8:35 am.

The light turned green. Two seconds later, I heard a loud “WHUMP!” Well, to you, it may have sounded like “CRASH!” or “CRASH and then WHUMP!”

As the dust settled, we saw what happened. The light turned red for the traffic on Sunset Blvd. (which is also highway 412), and two drivers made a mistake. The driver of a white pickup heading east on Sunset was in a hurry, and couldn’t stand the thought of waiting another four minutes for the next green light; so he hit the gas-peddle and ran the red light. The driver of the brown pickup who was ready to turn onto 412, assuming the green light meant “safe to go”, made a jack-rabbit start. The two pickups met in the intersection.

I couldn’t see the front end of the brown pickup, but he had broadsided the white pickup and pushed it across the intersection and over the curb on the south side of 412. The front end of the white pickup was mangled with both front tires broken off. Police were called. As I drove past him, the white pickup driver was holding his head in his hands with his elbows resting on the steering wheel. In my estimation, the truck was totaled, and the driver apparently felt miserable and stupid for running the red light – all to save four minutes.

Being in a reckless hurry, the driver lost an entire day – and his truck. His mistake also cost hundreds of other drivers much more than ten minutes in their schedule. And the other driver?

The brown pickup driver, assuming green was “safe to go”, took off without looking to see if it actually was safe. By the time he saw the white pickup, he had already hit it. If only he had hesitated and looked both ways, he would have been aware of what was happening and could have taken preventive action.

Within ten minutes, two police cars, a fire truck, and two ambulances were on the scene. One pickup was destroyed, another needed major surgery, two people were injured, and hundreds of other drivers were delayed.

All because one man wanted to save four minutes!

In our cross-country trips, Carol and I have seen hundreds of careless or reckless people driving foolishly. No matter what the speed limit (Carol and I stick closely to it), many folk drive ten to thirty mph over it. But what’s the big hurry?

Don’t people plan ahead anymore? My father taught me a very important principle: “It’s better to be an hour early than a minute late.” On the other hand, if I do run late, I don’t try to make up lost time as I drive. It’s better to be late than to risk anyone’s life – including my own.

Planning ahead is the key that would prevent most problems on the road; actually, it would prevent many problems in life. If I need to be somewhere at ten o’clock and it will take thirty minutes to get there, I allow an extra fifteen minutes for traffic delays, and leave no later than 9:15. If I’m going across country, I allow extra time in each phase of the trip so I’m not in a hurry. In our last trip to Tennessee, we hit a two-hour traffic tie-up; but we had included four extra hours in the schedule so we weren’t late.

We should plan ahead for every trip – including our final trip in life that starts at death. Have you made appropriate plans? Yes, insurance and estate planning are necessary; but have you planned to meet the Lord Jesus Christ? After all, that will be the most important trip of your eternal existence.

Don’t try to “run the red light” at the eternal intersection and expect to make it across safely. It won’t work. Prepare now by studying the road map – the Bible. Avoid the traffic delays in life – called sin. And call the Highway Patrol – the Holy Spirit – for advice. You must plan ahead in order to safely reach the destination – being with God forever in heaven.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

A Sword for the Lord, and for Gideon

What’s your favorite Bible story? Daniel dropping in to visit the Lions? Noah surfing the grandest of all tsunamis? David creating a giant headache? They are all-time favorites for most of the church, but have you considered the story of Gideon?

This story, found in chapters six through eight in the book of Judges, is the foundation for one of the great ministries in modern times.

While in Los Alamos, NM, I was invited to a dinner hosted by the local Gideon camp. Meeting at the Morning Glory Bakery, President John Elder, Randy Rowan, Charles Knoop, Kevin Albright and others were in attendance. I have known of the Gideons most of my life, and have known these men for several decades.

When I returned to Siloam Springs, Paul Kimball surprised Carol and me by inviting us to a Gideon camp dinner at the John Brown University. There were about fifty attending, including Marshall Orcutt, Paul Kimball, and Milton Lundberg.

The Gideon’s devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, and their love and concern for people is unsurpassed. But why do they call themselves Gideons?

I can’t tell the whole story here, but look at several data points. The Angel of the Lord chose Gideon to do an impossible job. When Gideon destroyed the village idol as a result of the angelic visit, the townsfolk wanted to kill him. I laugh when reading what Joash, Gideon’s dad, said, “If Baal is a god, let him fight for himself. It’s his altar that has been pulled down.”

The Lord gave Gideon a fool-proof battle plan; and because Gideon obeyed, 300 men overcame more than 135,000 of the enemy. A few is an overwhelming majority if God is in it. Remember this: God is not impressed with our ability; God is not depressed with our inability; But God is blessed with our availability.

In 1899 three men – Samuel Hill, John Nicholson, and William Knight – banded together and formed an association. They decided to call themselves “Gideons”. They met for several years. The group grew, and they felt impressed to distribute Bibles. Then in 1908, Pastor E. R. Burkhalter, First Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky suggested in a Ministerial Union meeting that “Gideon Bibles be placed in all local hotels and that the Union be responsible for the funds.”

Quoting Paul Kimball, “The Gideons International serves as a missionary arm of the local church, distributing over 1,000,000 copies of Bibles and Life Books every 5 days. Every Scripture distributed is funded by contributions from churches and individuals, and from the Gideon Bible Card Program. 100% of these contributions go for the purchase and placement of Scriptures (Gideon dues cover overhead). Millions of people around the world have no access to Scriptures, but with the support of generous contributors, Gideons ensure that many of them have a copy of God’s Word for their very own.”

Randy Rowan said, “Many of the public high schools in the USA no longer allow the Gideons to come on campus and distribute scriptures; so the Life Book program was developed so Christian students can share the gospel with their peers. The Life Book is a gospel of John that has handwritten comments and questions in the margins that reflect the perspectives of four high school students (male and female of different ages) and one adult. In the back of the Life Book is a gospel presentation in the form of a series of questions followed by a section on problems commonly faced by teenagers, along with scriptural advice on how to address those problems. Any pastor or youth pastor may order up to 1,000 of these Life Books free of charge at www.thelifebook.com.”

In 1908, The Gideons International placed the first Bible in a hotel room in Montana. Today, as of August of 2019, Gideons are organized in 200 countries around the world. Bibles and New Testaments are distributed by The Gideons International in 107 languages, and more than 2.3 billion Bibles and New Testaments have been placed through the Gideon ministry.

The Gideons are a few people doing an almost impossible task – attempting to distribute Scriptures to the entire world. The devil’s forces fight them but God gave them an excellent battle-plan. I encourage you, both reader and church, to support them financially. The Gideons pay the overhead themselves, so every dollar you give buys Scriptures – and saves lives.

May the Lord bless you as you support the Gideons International organization.

All I Could Do Was Laugh

The computer manager where I worked at the National Laboratory told me my computer hard drive needed to be cleaned. We didn’t have the funding to for a new computer yet, so I needed to tune up the one I had.

“Okay, how do I go about it?”

Although I didn’t know much about computers at the time, Nolan was extremely computer savvy and he rattled off the instructions as he was leaving my office. What he said made sense, I understood what he said, and I figured I would do the job within a couple of days. But in my hurry I didn’t take notes.

My father taught me when I was in high school (over 55 years ago) to take notes when someone gives me instructions. Dad said, “Paper has a longer memory than you do. Write things down.” He was right, of course; therefore, I normally did record instructions – but forgot this time.

In my position I was involved in almost every aspect of our group’s operations. Later that day, I was called to check on one of our buildings that was emitting smoke. (A large fan motor mal-functioned and was smoking.) I investigated a forklift accident and wrote up the report: that took several days. (The critically-injured man lived.) Inspectors called me to check on potential radiation-contamination at another site. (It was only natural radiation that accompanied sunlight, but I still had to write the report.) Things like that kept me busy; and because of my many duties, I didn’t get to the project of cleaning my hard drive for several weeks.

But I finally got to the relatively simple task. After all, Nolan explained it very well.

Now, what was it that Nolan said? Oh yes: make sure you have all the software for the programs you use, and save all your work in a separate folder. Transfer that folder to an external hard drive. Then erase the resident hard drive and run the cleaning program. Afterwards, reinstall all software, then reinstall your work. Easy enough. I had four hours of dead time and decided to get it done.

After saving eight years of data into a separate folder, I erased the hard drive and ran the cleaning program. But after reinstalling the software, I ran into a problem: I couldn’t find the folder with my eight years of reports, investigations, presentations, spread-sheets, laboratory history, and myriads of other documentation.

Then I remembered: I had saved all my work – ALL OF IT – in a separate folder on my resident hard drive. I forgot to transfer it to an external hard drive.

Thinking of all that I had just lost, I got the worst sinking feeling I had ever felt in my entire life. IT’S ALL GONE!

I had two options: I could either cry, or laugh. Since crying wouldn’t help anyone, all I could do was laugh. And I did. Then I called Nolan.

He came to my office right away. After hearing my miserable tale of woe, Nolan said, “Believe-it-or-not, yesterday after you left, an idea came to my mind that wouldn’t leave. So I came to your office and I stayed until 9:00 pm backing up your hard drive. I now realize it was the Lord who prompted me to do that, and you’ve lost nothing.”

All I could do was laugh. But this time for JOY!

Nolan, a Bible teacher, reminded me of Romans 8:28 which 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. (NLT)” I was certainly grateful for God’s mercy in the work-place, and for Nolan’s timely obedience to God’s prompting.

But not everything turns out “good” like that. Tornados destroyed friends’ homes, dad died of cancer, two of my sister lost their houses in a fire — do these work for our good? Amazingly, they can.

If we keep our faith in God for Who He is (not for what we want or expect), we’ll grow in our relationship with Him. Things of earth are to be used while on earth, but all material things will eventually pass away (Matthew 24:35). It is our relationship with God that is eternal (Matthew 28:20).

When bad things happen, turn to the Lord. He really does love you. Trust Him in good and bad times, for this world is not our home. Memorize Romans 8:28, which 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.”

And, feel free to laugh.

Gnosticism

The Bible says Jesus was tempted in every way humans are tempted. But Jesus couldn’t have been tempted if he was God (James 1:12-14). Doesn’t Jesus’ temptation prove that he was merely human?

I’ve been asked that question several times through the years, and it reflects on Gnosticism. So, let’s address the general concept of Gnosticism. Many of the gnostic philosophies can be summed in this (over-simplified) statement: Salvation is attained by gnosis – knowledge; Jesus’ death wasn’t necessary, and may not have even taken place; He may not have been God, or he may not have had a physical body.

The controversies continue. Everything that can be questioned about the God-man Jesus Christ has been questioned. The simultaneous natures of deity and humanity united in the person of Jesus Christ have been debated, argued, and killed over throughout church history. Let’s look into it.

The Bible says: 1) Jesus was tempted. 2) Jesus is God. And 3) God cannot be tempted. However, Matthew 22:29 applies here which says, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures….” Also II Timothy 2:15: “Study (Scripture) to show yourself approved (honorable, faithful) to God; a workman (student) who properly divides (discerns and understands) the word of truth.”

Here are a few Gnostic heresies that date back to Jesus’ time.

  • The Ebionites and Arians denied the deity of Christ.
  • The Docetists denied the reality of His physical body, stating He was merely a spirit or an emanation from God.
  • The Apollinarians claimed Jesus had a human body and the spirit of God, but not a human spirit.
  • The Unitarians said He was adopted as (or became) deity only at His baptism.
  • Some said He was the first man, Adam or the archangel, Gabriel.
  • Some say that our creator-god is actually Lucifer.
  • Others claimed that Jesus was God before conception and after His resurrection, but not for His approximate 33 years on earth.

Talk about confusion! Yet they all pride themselves on having GNOSIS — knowledge. How can all those conflicting teachings be called gnosis, or knowledge? It doesn’t make any sense!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The uniqueness – and controversy – of Christianity is the Person of Jesus Christ: He is the Divine human being. Matthew 4:1-10, Hebrews 2:17-18, and other Scripture, verify that Jesus was tempted in His humanity; yet John 1:1-3 and other Scripture verify that He is God. This is not a conflicting doctrine blindly imposed on us to accept without question; rather, it is a sobering conclusion founded on strong evidence. This can be difficult to understand, for there is no other God-man in history with whom to compare.

However, back to the question: James 1:13 (“…God cannot be tempted ….”) is not talking about Jesus. The concept of Messiah is not in this specific text. Rather, James was referring to a then-current error making the rounds that justified immorality, which was: “God tempted me.” Remember, the Gnostics believed that our creator-god was evil. James was refuting that heresy while giving general encouragement to the church to live righteously. And He differentiated between Father Yahweh and Jesus the Messiah by referring specifically to Father Yahweh (verse 17: “Every good gift…comes down from the Father….”).

Jesus was and is God: John 1:1 (NLT) “In the beginning, the Word already existed. He was with God, and He was God.” Verse 14 lets us know that “the Word” here is Jesus. Jesus in His humanity was tempted in every manner as man can be tempted (Hebrews 4:15); where Father YHVH was never human, therefore, cannot be, nor has ever been, tempted. He is “un-temptable”. And our Creator God is a Good and Loving God; but Lucifer’s final destination is what the Bible calls the lake of fire. 

Much of the New Testament was written to combat the various heresies of Gnosticism; or, as the Apostle Paul said, to combat “a different gospel.” Anything that teaches differently from or in conflict with the message of salvation and Jesus Christ as found in the Bible is a different gospel – which is a different way to attempt to gain salvation; a different way to try to go to heaven.  But it can’t be done. It’s teaching a different understanding of Jesus Christ, or a teaching about a different Jesus altogether such as the cosmic christ

Salvation and eternal life are gained only through the knowledge of and the acceptance of our Lord Jesus Christ. Read about Him. Study about Him. Get to know Him. 

You Like Watching Sex & Violence?

Have you heard the debate as to whether or not sex and violence on videos, theaters, and television are negatively affecting human behavior? The debate has been going on for years but is really a waste of time.

According to Advertising Age magazine, advertising spent in the US in 2017 reached approximately $205 billion. Now the question is: if watching a commercial does NOT affect our behavior, why are companies willing to fork out all that money? In case you haven’t figured it out yet, money talks!

Rightly or wrongly, money rules much of the world. So, if watching a commercial will motivate someone to buy specified merchandise, that in itself is proof positive that watching sex and violence affects our behavior. Please keep in mind that companies want to advertise on programs that people want to watch. And, as commercials motivate us to buy their products, watching sex and violence motivates us to “buy” their products. More on that in a minute.

Also, did you know that swearing or using profanity is linked to violent behavior? I read an article by Jennifer Welsh (October 17, 2011) which said;

By studying Midwestern youths, the study found that the more profanity they are exposed to through television and video games, the more accepting they are of swearing and the more likely they are to use profanity themselves. Those kids who swore more were also more likely to engage in physical aggression.”

“Profanity is kind of like a stepping stone,” said study researcher Sarah Coyne, of Brigham Young University. “When youth both hear and then try profanity out for themselves it can start a downward slide toward more aggressive behavior.”

The researchers found links between the amount of swearing in video games and television, and how often the students used profanity themselves. Participants who swore more often were more likely than other students to exhibit physical and relational violence.

Another study published online in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience reported that watching violence on television, theaters, or video games “desensitizes people, blunts their emotional responses, and potentially promotes aggressive attitudes and behavior.” Our society is proving that.

Dr Grafman, senior investigator at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, USA), reported that the longer people watched sex and violence on videos, video games, television, and theaters, the more desensitized towards sex and violence they became.

The researchers also found that those who had the most exposure to violent media in their daily lives showed the greatest desensitization; and continued exposure to violent videos will make a person more accepting of violence and more likely to commit aggressive actions. It is obvious that playing violent or sexually graphic video games dynamically affects a person because the player is physically and emotionally involved; therefore, these video games are even more harmful than television or the theater.

Another series of studies conducted by C. A. Anderson and B. J. Bushman (2002) on over 130,000 participants around the world show that:

“Violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (heart rate, blood pressure), and aggressive behavior. Violent games also decrease feelings of empathy for others. The effects occurred for males and females of all ages, regardless of what country they lived in. This review also sheds light on why violent video games increase aggression. Someone who has aggressive thoughts, feels angry inside, lacks empathy for others, and is highly aroused should be more likely to behave aggressively.”

We have a dynamic problem. We promote sex and violence because it sells products, but we then reap the results in the form of a depraved society. Our society enjoys watching exciting murders on the screen, but are horrified when we read that there were 17,284 known murders in the USA in 2017. We promote immoral sexual behavior because it sells products, but are aghast at the 135,755 known rapes in the USA in 2017.

Are you happy about all the hell that flourishes in the world today? If you are, keep watching and promoting that stuff. If you’re not happy with it, do something about it.

Our only proven alternative in cleaning up or rescuing our society is to return to faith in Jesus Christ, and promote good morals and healthy living as espoused in the Bible. There is no other way.

If we do not change the course of our society, we’ll only get worse.

Relevance or Authenticity?

Several years ago, we received a calendar from the Insights For Living ministry titled: “The Dawn of a Church Awakening.” Chuck Swindoll’s caption for June was “The Church’s Attractiveness” and Chuck wrote:

I am convinced that the church doesn’t need marketing devices, worldly strategies, live entertainment, or a corporate mentality to be contagious. Not if the glory of God is the goal. Not if the growth of God’s people is in view. Rather, the church needs biblical truth taught correctly and clearly … and lived out in authenticity.

Now that’s a mouthful. I found ten themes: the Church’s nature; marketing devices; worldly strategies; entertainment; corporate mentality; God’s nature; spiritual growth; biblical truth; ministry; and reality.

The two central themes around which the other eight revolve are the Church’s nature and God’s nature. And the nature of the church directly affects how the world views the nature of God. So, how is the church doing?

For over fifty years I’ve heard “the church needs to be relevant” in order to influence the world for Christ. I might agree with that statement, but I need to see what it means first.

Relevant has various meanings, but the current meaning is pertinent to the matter at hand.

So is the church being relevant to the world? Yes. But we have a problem. The little-known church motto is: “The Bible is our standard for faith and practice.” That means our faith, lifestyle, and actions should conform to Scripture. However what we find is the church is conforming to the world.

The world is on a fast-track heading away from Jesus Christ. Those in an ungodly lifestyle have no intention of being influenced by the church, but the church wants to be relevant. Therefore the church adopts much of the world’s music, entertainment preferences, activities, and behaviors in order to promote identification. But as the world continues its trajectory away from God, the church, still wanting to be relevant, continues toward the world.

Do you see what’s happening? Many in the church, desiring to influence people for Christ, identify with non-Christians by becoming like them. Recently I heard a member of a Christian rock band say, “We try to be on the level of the main-stream artists.” And that’s the downfall of the church as it becomes relevant: many in the church look and act like non-Christians. Therefore, they begin living like non-Christians.

One New Mexico pastor asked a young man, “Would you like to become a Christian? God will accept you just the way you are.” The response was, “Sure, man; why not? There really is no difference between your church and my group anyway. I’ll accept your Jesus.” The truth was: he did not accept Christ; he merely joined a church.

Many in the church dress, act, talk, and live like the world, thus, blurring the distinction between church and world. That’s why many non-Christians don’t see the need to turn away from their detrimental or harmful lifestyles.

For fifty years the church’s priority has been to identity with the sinful world rather than promote the Glory of God through Jesus Christ. A youth pastor I know takes several youth groups to pagan rock concerts where drugs and alcohol flow. When I challenged him about it he said, “Pastor Linzey, it’s the same music as Christian rock, but we tune out the words so it is okay. We like to use this kind of music in our churches but use Christian lyrics. That makes the music Christian. Also, after we get the kid’s attention, we can teach them about Christ.”

That sounded good, but I learned later that if he stopped paying for their rock concert tickets, they stopped attending his youth meetings. So, where is his authenticity?

A problem is that we are confusing concern with identification; and that degenerates to watering down the Gospel. We also need to understand that religious activity often blocks the voice of God. And if there’s no observable difference between church and world, we are preaching the wrong gospel.

Chuck Swindoll is right: In order to change our world for the better, in order to truly influence people for Jesus Christ, we must live authentic Christian lives.

Death Is Not Final

I read an article many years ago titled: “Was Jesus the First Psychiatrist?” I think it’s worth reading. The author mentioned that there are “300 or so [mental] disorders” that plague mankind; and discusses what he sees as the similarity of Godly teachings and the teachings of psychiatry. 

Please remember that where all Scripture is correct (2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”), not all conclusions in the field of psychiatry and psychology are correct.

I thought long on the following statement: “People suffer to the extent that they are removed from the truth.”

That is partly true, and the reason it stuck in my mind is a conversation I had earlier with a very close friend in the southwest. His wife was nearing the end of her life, and Chuck was experiencing anger and frustration. When I mentioned that facing the truth promotes emotional healing, he blurted out, “I don’t want the truth! I want my wife to live!” I asked him if he wanted to face reality. He exclaimed “NO!”

I understood; his precious wife meant the world to him, and he didn’t want to lose her. Later, in deep depression, Chuck said several times regarding his wife’s condition, “It’s hopeless.”

Dr. Charles Allen (United Methodist minister, deceased) who received an honorary doctorate from John Brown University, and is author of “God’s Psychiatry” said, “When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.” However, people must not give up on life, but neither should we demand what God is not giving.

Meditate on those statements.

Chuck had given me the freedom to talk bluntly with him. He knew that I loved him unconditionally, and I gave him the freedom to vent his frustrations at me without fear of reprisal or ill feelings. And I went to be with him when his wife left this life.

Later that day Chuck expressed his appreciation for my helping him to face reality, and said, “A load has been lifted from my shoulders; thank you for helping me accept the truth.” And that reflects another statement from Dr. Allen: “The mind is like the body. It can be wounded. Sorrow is a wound. It cuts deeply; but sorrow can be a clean wound and can heal unless something gets into the wound, such as bitterness, self-pity, or resentment.”

Bitterness, self-pity, and resentment oppose faith in God. I continued working with Chuck: a loving, passionate man with a tendency toward depression.

People must reawaken what they were born with: the God-given, inexplicable, ultimately undefeatable capacity to move in the direction of their own interests, abilities, beliefs and dreams. That’s why the image of Christ is such a powerful one.

It’s not wrong to ask the Lord to heal someone. In fact, it’s healthy and necessary to have a living, vital relationship with Jehovah-Raphah – the Lord who heals. Doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists help, but God alone can ultimately heal the body and mind.

We must all remember that until Jesus returns, physical death is part of life; and for the Christian, death must not be feared for it is the door to heaven. Psalm 90:10 tells us that our lifespan will be an average of 70-80 years although individual lifetimes vary. My father lived to be eighty-nine, his father lived to ninety-nine, and my mother left this life at the age of 97. But until Jesus returns, we all will leave this life. 

Chuck was facing the reality of his wife’s immanent departure. Was the situation truly hopeless? The answer was a resounding “No.” Death is not the end of the story. Those who trust God with their lives will be given eternal life. 

Chuck’s wife left this earth, but accepting the truth had set him free. Was there sorrow? Yes, but not as others sorrow. 1 Thessalonians 4:13–14 says, “Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about those Christians who have died so you will not be sad, as others who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again. So, because of him, God will raise with Jesus those who have died.”

Chuck will see his wife again.

Jumping at Shadows

Years ago we had a kitten that developed a special interest in life. It did the “cat thing” of chasing strings, rubbing against our legs, curling up in our laps, climbing trees, and the rest. But this critter developed the joy of jumping at and chasing shadows.

If we walked through the yard during the day or into the room at night with the lights on, and he saw our shadow, he immediately pounced on and wildly chased it, trying to nail it with his claws until the shadow disappeared. He then stopped and looked around as if to ask, “Where did it go?”

His favorite version of the game was trying to catch a shadow on the wall. You should have seen him! He would sit at the base of the wall, watching a shadow that Michael (our son) cast on the wall. Michael moved his hand up & down and in various directions, and the cat slowly – intently – focused on the ethereal object. He crouched low, quivering with pent-up energy. Then he EXPLODED straight up the wall as he grabbed at the phantom object. He did this repeatedly for five or six minutes until he tired himself out. But several hours later, he was ready for another go at it. What a critter!

Marvel (the cat) didn’t seem to know that he would never nab this prey. He didn’t know that his objective was not attainable, and he expended time and enormous amounts of energy in the process. Watching the feline focusing on and striving for something that was not attainable is entertaining and elicited gales of laughter from us. I think God revealed His sense of humor when He created cats.

But do you know that many people do the same thing? They sit at a mental wall and focus on objectives that are not attainable. They focus on what SHOULD be, or MIGHT have been. If only I had more money. If only I had married someone else. If only I had a different job. If only I were good-looking or more popular. Hundreds of If Onlys.

They also focus on what others might be thinking of them.

That reminds me of the shy student sitting alone. When the instructor asked the student if he needed assistance, the young man said, “No, but I’m wondering what those guys are thinking of me.” The instructor gently responded with, “You might be wasting your time, son; they don’t even know you are here. Why don’t you go join them?”

How about you? Do you worry and wish things were different in your life? Worry will never change anything, and changing the past is impossible; so you are wasting time and expending enormous amounts of energy. That energy is needed for the present, and worrying blocks our creativity and impedes progress. Why not use that pent-up energy to do something? Make a change now. You should remember that many times the most important change we can make is our own attitude.

In 1973 I did not like my job. Let me rephrase that: I enjoyed being an appliance repairman, but I really did not like my employer! I jumped at every opportunity imaginable trying to get another job, but to no avail. No other job opened up for me. I didn’t know that the problem was NOT my employer – it was my attitude. I didn’t realize that I had become a proud, arrogant person; and trying to change employers while exhibiting a bad or poor attitude was like jumping at shadows.

One Sunday after the church service, I spent a lengthy time in prayer. The Holy Spirit was reminding me of my attitudes, errors, faults, sins (call them what you want), and I was repenting. I did not spend time consciously changing my attitude; but when my self-consciousness decreased and my God-consciousness increased, my attitude changed as a by-product. That shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Already a Christian, I became a different person: I had stopped doing things my way and accepted God’s way. And guess what? I learned to deeply appreciate my employer. And I was surprised when I was offered another job several months later with greater potential.

Let’s stop our futile efforts of jumping at shadows. Let’s live in the present and pursue reality. That begins with reducing our self-centeredness, increasing our Christ-centeredness, deepening our relationship with God, and allowing Him to guide us. It also enhances joyful interaction with our family.