The Beatitudes are Progressive

This is a follow-up to last week’s blog. It gives a little more insight into the book, Charter of the Christian Faith.

I began seriously studying the Beatitudes while attending the Oklahoma Baptist University in 1985. At the end of the semester, I had to choose one of five topics for my thesis, and I chose Matthew 5:1-12. As I began the research, I experienced almost as much confusion as I did when I read the Beatitudes as a child. But the more I dug into the topic, the more interesting it became, and the greater impact it had on my life.

A major concept I discovered is that the Beatitudes are progressive; they are sequential steps to godliness. It wasn’t obvious when I compared Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God with Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. The words didn’t adequately convey the intent of the Beatitudes; that’s why it’s difficult to comprehend the depth of the message. But when I realized that poor in spirit is sincere humility and mourning is deep sorrow because I have offended God, it became clear that there is an order to these concepts.

This example will clarify my point. When we want to learn math, we don’t begin by studying lambda calculus or advanced trigonometry. We start with adding and subtracting, and progress from there. In like manner, we’ll find out that everything we need to know, or even want to know, about enhancing our relationship with Jesus, starts with humility: the first Beatitude.

As we study the Bible, we find that the Beatitudes, and how God uses them to change and mature us, flow in magnificent sequence—in perfect order.

As we often climb stairs one step at a time to enter a house, mankind has known for thousands of years that we learn one step at a time. Jesus knew it and was a master teacher. That’s why these are not random thoughts to mull over; they are sequential. Following a logical order, each Beatitude is the step to reach the next one.

The goal that God the Father set before all of us is for us to become like Christ, but He knows it will be a life-long endeavor. Therefore, He provided the eight-step process the Church calls the Beatitudes to make the spiritual journey more understandable. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount, prefaced by the Beatitudes “is considered to be the most important sermon Jesus ever preached and starts with what is considered to be the most important attitudes that we need to have, The Beatitudes.”11

Preceding each chapter, is a pictorial illustration of the journey. The man represents humanity, the donkey represents the human mind without Christ, and the lion represents the Lion of Judah, and that is Jesus who is available to help us.

How did Jesus begin this teaching?

And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain; and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him. And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying….

Whoa! Stop there. Let’s think about this.

There were 5,000 men, plus possibly another 5,000 women and children. How could a multitude that large hear, let alone understand, someone sitting down? Something doesn’t seem right about this picture.

That’s why we study. Let’s read further and analyze the scene.

Although Jesus spoke to large crowds at other times, Matthew 5:2 reveals that Jesus may not have been speaking loudly to thousands, or even hundreds of men, women, and children in this setting. Others may have heard, but the entire Sermon on the Mount—three chapters—was spoken primarily to these twelve men. Why do I say that?

The phrase He opened His mouth is a solemn pronunciation. This is in contrast with verses such as Mark 15:1 which says, And they cried out again, Crucify him! To cry out is to shout! But the phrase He opened His mouth is an important, quiet activity. Jesus was teaching His followers personally, quietly, and without the interference of a noisy crowd.

According to the end of chapter seven, there were many people on the hillside, and some listened in and learned from the Master. (Jesus also taught these same truths to others in different places.) But in this setting, although others may have heard, Jesus purposely addressed a small group of twelve men.

Learn more about Jesus’ primary teaching in the New Testament, and how you can become an effective representative of Almighty God by reading Charter of the Christian Faith. You may find the book on Amazon.

THE BE-WHATITUDES?

For many years I’ve taught about the Bible and from the Bible. One of the series I’ve been asked to teach on quite often is found in the 5th chapter of Matthew. Because of the profound nature of that section of Scripture, I call this teaching, Charter of the Christian Faith. Today’s blog is a portion of the preface of my book by the same name, and will give you a feel for what’s in the following pages. The foreword is written by Rev. David Ravenhill.

I remember as a child in Sunday School, one of my teachers wanted us to memorize the be-something-or-others; but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. I hated memorizing, and these things didn’t make any sense to me. Not only did I not understand them, but the teacher also couldn’t adequately explain them, either so I never got a gold star for learning those be-whatitudes.

But I did mentally retain other verses that made sense to me. Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” And John 3:16, “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.” I understood those verses, even in the King James Version. In fact, most of what I committed to memory was from the KJV.

Also, Acts 1:11 clearly told me that while the people stood watching the incredulous sight of Jesus ascending into the sky, angels told them how Jesus will return. Men of Galilee, they said, why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday He will return from heaven in the same way you saw Him go! (NLT). That gave me confidence that Jesus would come back, and it told me how He would return. No questions, no guesses. No less than 67 famous people, and more than five hundred others, have claimed to be the returned messiah; but people should have understood they were fake messiahs because not one of them came the way the Bible says Jesus would return.

Nevertheless, I had a hard time with the Beatitudes, but I wasn’t alone. Author Philip Yancey said in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, “I learned the Beatitudes [as a teenager] yet I never faced the fact that none of us—I above all—could make sense of those mysterious sayings, let alone live by them.” He later said, “If I fail to understand this teaching, I fail to understand Him [Jesus].” That is a powerful statement.

Teacher and song-writer Bill Gaither said, “What we call the Beatitudes still challenge our value systems every day.” Many people—including many in the Church—view the Beatitudes merely as lofty ideals: holy-sounding platitudes which are beyond our grasp. Some people think of them as verses or sayings to comfort the spirit in time of trouble. But is this the primary intent of the first major teaching that Jesus gave us in the New Testament? I don’t think so.

I believe Matthew 5:3-12 is the Charter of the Christian Faith, and this Charter is developed in the full Sermon on the Mount in chapters five through seven.

Again, quoting E. Stanley Jones, “Years ago when I asked Mahatma Gandhi what we could do to naturalize Christianity in India so that it would cease to be a foreign thing, among other concepts he replied: ‘Practice your religion without adulterating it or toning it down’—and he had in mind the Sermon on the Mount.… This fresh discovery, by a Hindu, of a truth long buried beneath the armaments of the fighting West, has been one of the most important spiritual discoveries of modern times.”

In order to properly understand the Beatitudes, we must realize they were not originally intended for our consolation, and they’re not statements to make us sound spiritual. Rather, they comprise one of the most important sets of instructions we could ever receive.

I’ll share more highlights in weeks to come, but you can order your copy on Amazon today. Also, check out my website at genelinzey.com.

Let Freedom Ring!

After the American eight-year War of Independence ended in 1784, the colonists were finally free! Well, I suppose they weren’t colonists any longer; they were citizens of a new country. But they were free!

They were free from tyranny. Free from taxation without representation. Free from the hated Redcoats! And free from a host of other problems – both real and imagined.

But what were they free to do? They were free to worship according to conscience and free to choose their own religion, but let’s come back to that in a minute. What else were the colonists – I mean, Americans – free to do?

Political freedom was a major item. Not desiring any over-arching government, they wouldn’t bow to any state but their own. This was a problem because there were thirteen new governments to consider. So, the former colonies – now sovereign states – agreed to a limited government under a federation called The United States of America.

They were free to tax themselves with “in-house” representation. That was a fight! The local towns didn’t want the states to tax them, and the states didn’t want the feds to tax them. They were also free to print their own money. Oops … that didn’t work too well. Each state created its own currency, with some states having several currencies. Banks issued their own money; and by 1836 over 1,600 banks were issuing thousands of varieties of paper money. Many were “not worth a continental.” Believe-it-or-not, standardized currency wasn’t established until 1929.

Back to freedom of religion.

In order to have a workable government, compromises are made. However, these concessions need to be in the civil arena; not in matters of faith. In colonial legislation, Thomas Jefferson said in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (written in 1779):

“No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever … nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

Jefferson made sure the First Amendment carried the same idea: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

President Eisenhower said on January 20, 1953, “History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.” And on November 25, 1981 the United Nations General Assembly passed the “Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.”

With that in mind, why is our government limiting or restricting the free, open exercise of the Christian religion? Why are we disregarding our religious freedoms that are protected in our own national documents? I am referring, of course, to openly reading and teaching from the Holy Bible.

When Scripture teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, why do we cower before those who disagree? Without a constitutional amendment, Congress doesn’t have the right to revoke our constitutional rights of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or deny our right to preach the truth as found in Scripture.

I don’t hate homosexuals; I have worked alongside several, and some of my friends are homosexuals. There is no hate involved when I tell them that the Bible teaches against homosexuality. But hate is involved when “gay” people angrily hurl insults and epithets at me.

It is unconstitutional, immoral, and unethical to allow the “gay” person his first amendment rights, yet disallow the “straight” person the same rights. Gay folks, as American citizens, have the freedom to speak their mind, so why would he or she deny me, an American citizen, the same freedom to speak my mind without fear of reprisal? Whoever dares to eliminate my freedom puts his own freedoms in jeopardy.

Proverbs 25:26 says, “A good person who gives in to evil is like a muddy spring or dirty well.”

     Christians have the same guaranteed, blood-bought, constitutional freedoms to teach and worship according to conscience, and to express our beliefs as does anyone else – and that includes teaching everything in the Bible. To deny that freedom would be discrimination, bigotry, and intolerance on the highest level – and would be un-constitutional. Remember, even the UN denounces intolerance – at least, on paper.

Why Is It …?

Why is it that Moslems are allowed to spread out their mat then kneel and pray in public, while Christians are told to keep their faith to themselves?

Why is it that the names of Allah, Krishna, Rhea, Ishtar, Zeus, and thousands of other deities are allowed to be mentioned publicly, but we’re told that the name of Jesus should be a private matter?

Why is it socially acceptable to holler out the name of Jesus as a swear word or to use his name in vain, but it is not socially acceptable to use his name publicly in a worshipful manner?

Why is it that homosexuals can demean, denigrate, curse, and threaten a Christian without fear of governmental intervention and even commit vandalism on church buildings, yet if a Christian merely quotes Bible verses about homosexuality, it could be called a hate crime?

Why is it that Moslems are allowed to publicly quote the Quran and Hindus can openly quote the Vedas, but Christians are told that reading the Bible openly is considered offensive, and intolerant?

Why are Hinduism (Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, etc.), Islam, Theosophy, and other forms of religious activity openly taught and practiced in public schools, yet Christians are warned not to openly teach or display Christianity on public property?

 Why is it acceptable to publicly display hundreds of religious symbols and beliefs, yet Christians are challenged to remove Christian symbols from public view?

Why is it that our nation puts aside our foundational Christian beliefs in our own land in order to not be offensive, yet adherents of other religions – from other countries – have the right to openly display their religion in our land?

Why is it that Christians in our own country are commanded to be tolerant of and accept other religions, but those of other faiths on American soil are not required to be tolerant of Christianity?

Why is it that our government, while tolerant of all other religions, expresses contempt for Christianity?

Why is it that we spend money to preserve unhatched spotted owls, forest salamanders, and other animals, while simultaneously spending money to kill unborn humans?

Why is it that our own Congress – consisting of our own United States citizens – tends to limit or outlaw our national freedoms which are guaranteed to our citizens by our own Constitution and Bill of Rights, yet they favor granting freedoms to citizens of foreign countries who live here illegally?

Why is it that our Congress talks about reducing the financial support of our own citizens who have paid into the system for decades, while increasing the financial support of foreigners who have might have paid nothing or very little into it?

Why does our government come against Americans who stand for the foundational principles upon which this great nation was founded, while they defend people – both US citizens and foreigners alike – who would destroy our national heritage?

Why is it that Congress and the Supreme Court allowed presidents to change our nation’s values and economy single-handedly, and the president and Congress allowed the Court to legislate from the bench, without employing the checks and balances established in the Constitution?

I can go on-and-on, but maybe you get the point.

But why is it?

Here’s why. Over the years America has been lied to. We have been told that America must not offend anyone. It doesn’t matter that the world is offending us, and it doesn’t matter that our own government is limiting our own civil liberties, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and all the rest. And our President, Congress, and the Supreme Court seem to be unaware that our freedoms are being diluted or deleted. Or is that their intent?

Some folk think if we elect the right man for president things will get better. I have news for you: even if he makes the correct decisions, the president cannot do it alone. Anti-American sentiment crosses political boundaries.

We know that a socialist or ultra-liberal can make things worse; but even a president who adheres to traditional American values cannot help us if we – as a nation, including our own Congress – won’t return to faith in God. It goes beyond government: it’s a matter of spiritual values.

Second Chronicles 7:14 says: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”

So, why is it that our nation refuses to turn back to God?

What’s the Problem Here?

Why is there an uproar in America about having the Ten Commandments posted in public view? You might have been told the issue is separation of church and state, but that isn’t true. Some of my friends who call themselves atheists, and with whom I get along fine, don’t have a problem with the Ten Commandments being posted. Granting me the freedom of expressing my faith grants them the corresponding freedom to express theirs.

Although many faiths could be mentioned in this blog, I will mention only Islam, Judaism, and Christianity: three monotheistic religions.

Let’s briefly look at and comment on the commandments found in Deuteronomy 5: 6-21. The first four reflect on our relationship with God.

  • You must not have any other gods before [in priority over, or other than] me. Every person in the world is religious, and every country in the world has its own god or gods. Other nations place great importance on their god or gods without worrying about offending others – Islam being the most dynamic about this – so why are Christians being forced to change?
  • You must not create an object to worship. Adherents of Judaism and Islam agree with this, and many agnostics and atheists don’t care about it.
  • You must not use the name of God thoughtlessly or loosely. Although most people misunderstand this one and ignore it, adherents of Judaism and Islam agree with this principle.
  • You must honor the Sabbath day. Labor unions worked hard to give their members one or two days off from work each week, and the courts who invalidate the commandments won’t sit in session on Saturday or Sunday. Also, Judaism and Islam have their day of rest.

The next six commandments relate to human interpersonal relationships.

  • Honor your father and mother. Properly understood and applied, this command is one of the primary supports for most civilizations on earth.
  • You must not commit murder. We have stiff laws prohibiting murder. This command attempts to protect us from mentally sick and evil people who purposely kill others. Islam does not agree with this one.
  • You must not commit adultery. When this was observed and upheld in our culture, our society was strong. However, many people – including members of our courts, legislative bodies, and some presidents and pastors – have disregarded this one simply because sexual perversion is one of the world’s primary joys.
  • You must not steal. We arrest people and send them to jail for this.
  • You must not lie. We have contracts to keep people honest, and we can arrest people if they break contracts or commit perjury.
  • You must not think of taking your neighbors wife, house, land, or whatever else belongs to him. This command covers a lot of territory, and the courts are busy tending this every week of the year.

We’ve just seen that US citizens are not against at least seven of the rules, so what’s the problem with the Ten Commandments?

Here it is: the sound of “The 10 Commandments” reminds people of the God of the Bible. They may not be against a moral code; they are against God. And many who are NOT against God have been deceived into thinking the vast majority of people have to change our culture in order to keep from offending the miniscule minority. However, any culture that adheres to and lives by these ten laws – including honoring a Sabbath day – will be a healthier society. And most people know it.

I am still convinced these laws are the basic foundation upon which our nation was founded, although some folks disagree with me.

When we examine the Ten Commandments, it’s likely that only three of them are offensive to the general public. They are numbers 1, 3, and 7: many people don’t want God in their lives because they want the freedom to enjoy their evil, sexually-perverted lifestyle.

Some adherents of Islam agree with the ideals included in nine of the Ten Commandments. But they disagree with it all simply because the laws originated from the Judeo-Christian God; and, of course, command #1 disallows serving another god.

Other people all around the world have their own gods, and they don’t change their religion in the face of disagreement or opposition. But we in America are changing our historical, foundational belief in God simply because people disagree with us. But removing our historic foundation is outlawing moral integrity, and approving immoral hypocrisy. And that could destroy the fabric of our society. What’s the problem here?

I’ll tell you.

Many Americans have been convinced that in order to be tolerant, we must set our own beliefs aside. We have been deceived into thinking that stating our own faith is an intolerant act.

But our country has lead the way in guaranteeing personal freedom. We have openly offered freedom of expression of faith for all religions. So in keeping with the concept of religious freedom, and refraining from being ignorant hypocrites, we should not deny our own citizens the freedom of expressing their faith in Jesus Christ and Almighty God.

Whom Do You Trust?

What in the world is “trust”? Can “trust” be qualified? What I am getting at is… oh, let’s start over. Let’s define the word.

Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. It is confidence placed in a person or thing. It is dependence on someone or something. Can a person live without ever trusting someone or something? Think about it.

Next: can “trust” be qualified? That is, can you partially trust someone? Or is it an all-or-nothing concept?

When I was three years old, we lived in El Cajon, California. My dad put me on the top bunkbed, and said, “I want you to jump to me.” (Yes, the lights were on.) But I was afraid of falling, so I told dad I didn’t want to jump. Dad promised me that there was absolutely no way I could fall, because even if I jumped awkwardly, or inadvertently fell off the bed, he would still catch me.

I don’t know if you understand the fear of falling, but I was almost scared to death! I was emotionally paralyzed. But dad said very gently, “Eugene, if you can’t trust me, how will you ever learn to trust God?” You see, the proof or result of trust is obedience.

 Well that made sense – even to a 5-year-old.

So I suddenly leapt off the bed and hit dad in the chest with my 35 pounds and nearly knocked him over. Dad caught his balance and asked, “Why didn’t you warn me you were going to jump?” I responded, “You said you would catch me.” Dad chuckled, hugged me, and said, “Good job.”

Dad taught me about trust. Dad taught me a lot about life.

Did I fully trust dad, or did I partially trust him? If we consider my fear, we might say I partly trusted him. But if we consider my obedience, we say I absolutely trusted him. Obedience verifies trust.

What was it dad said? “Eugene, if you can’t trust me, how will you ever learn to trust God?”

As I grew older, I learned to trust God with my entire life.

How would my faith in God have been affected if dad dropped me? That’s hard to say because dad caught me. However, Dad most likely would have picked me up, apologized profusely to mom (who was watching), and tenderly talked to me about what went wrong. And because of that, I think I would still have learned to trust God.

Since I left my parents’ home, I’ve experienced many situations where I could have forfeited my faith and lost trust in God. But I am reminded of John 6:65-68. Many of Jesus’ disciples left Jesus, and Jesus asked if the twelve would also leave. “Peter responded, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Job was one of the richest men in the world, and he lost everything. He lost his children, livestock, respect, and admiration of friends and business associates. He was accused of being a terrible sinner.

But in spite of all of that, Job never lost his faith in God. He wanted to talk with God face-to-face and defend himself, but he never lost his faith. Job 13:15a says, “Though he [God] slay me, yet will I trust in him.” In chapter 19 verse 25, Job proclaims, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will eventually come to the earth.” And God, in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, did come to earth to redeem us.

Human mistakes and misfortunes should not deter us from trusting God. Jesus said if we love him, we will obey him. And Obedience is a manifestation of trust.

So, whom do you trust?

We Start With the Bible

The last time I saw my grandfather, Stanford Linzey, he was ninety-six years old. I asked him, “Grandpa, what is the most important thing in life? I want to pass your thought on to my children as part of their family heritage.”

Grandpa looked out into the field for a few minutes as I silently waited. At last he looked toward me and pensively said, “I suppose the most important thing in life is this: everything you need to know is in The Book. You can know a lot of other things, but everything you NEED to know is in The Book. Study it.”

Grandpa Linzey went to heaven in 1987, about four months before his one-hundredth birthday anniversary. And I continue to study The Book.

Today let’s talk about a New Years’ Plan. You could call it a resolution, but I call it: developing a relationship with the Lord. Warning: this might change your life – for the better! And I know that the New Year celebration was a month ago, but that’s okay. What I’m about to say is still true.

Many folk have their own ideas about how to study the Bible, and I have developed my own. I have read many methods, but in order to make it easy to remember, I keep my method simple. It entails three steps, and it goes like this.

  1. What do the words on the page say?

When I was in high school, my father said, “If something in the Bible doesn’t seem to make sense, study it out. Don’t stop until you understand it.” He then referred me to 2 Timothy 2:15 which became my commission in life. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (KJV).

It simply means: Study the Bible. You start by reading it. Be sincere. Be diligent. Don’t quit. Don’t embarrass yourself or insult God by being sloppy or half-hearted. Ask for help when you need it.

So I have set aside a time during which I can study without too much interference, and during which time I can concentrate on the topic at hand. For me, this is usually between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. I read the section of Scripture under consideration, but I also read enough before and after to get a grasp of the context. Without evaluating the context, we can misunderstand the content which can cloud our comprehension of the intent. We could even miss the entire message!

2. What did the writers mean when they wrote it?

Since the original manuscripts that we have were written between 1500 BC and ad 95 AD, many figures of speech, idioms, idiomatic phrases, concepts, and historical knowledge have been forgotten or misunderstood. Also, some of the words and phrases the translators used may not always currently convey the proper meaning. Therefore, in order to understand or “rightly divide” Scripture, we must often study language, history, archeology, or ancient Middle-Eastern culture. This is sometimes difficult and time-consuming, but without this step we can miss what God wants us to know.

Don’t get scared, now. Since most people have neither the time nor the resources to conduct an in-depth study of this nature, the Lord has set in place pastors, teachers, and evangelists to help (Ephesians 4:11–14).

3. How do I apply the principles to my life today?

This is sometimes the hardest part because applying scriptural principles to our lives entails honesty and integrity. We might have to change our way of living. In order to develop a closer, more dynamic relationship with God, we must give up things, activities, or ideas that are offensive to Christ or consume too much of our time. In order to do that, we must reevaluate our priorities in life. Will we continue to live a hedonistic, self-centered life, or will we change our way of thinking (Romans 12:2)? Specifically, we need to become Christ-centered. We must understand that our ultimate purpose in life is to know our Father God, and to honor him.

Now, having said all the above, please remember this:

It is not necessary to be a Bible scholar in order to change your life and honor the Lord. Salvation is received through a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Messiah, by accepting him into your life. Learn to know him by reading the Bible, regularly attending church meetings, attending Bible study sessions, or all three.

My prayer is that you grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ: and we start with the Bible.

Christians, Pay Attention

This week, all non-Christians may disregard this blog because I’m not talking to you. I am speaking to the Church.

Well, okay. As long as you’re here, you may continue reading if you so desire.

It appears to me that many in the Christian Church have corrupted their understanding of their position in Christ, or with Christ. More and more people imagine that Christ exists for our sake; that He came to earth to bless us and give us a wonderful life; that the riches and authority of the world belong to us – or should belong to us. Many folks have been taught that we can even tell God what we want, and out of His love for us He will grant our desire.

When I worked for an automobile dealership in 1980, a well-known pastor came to me and told me he wanted a Cadillac. He specified all the details, how much he would pay for it, and wanted me to order it so I could “get in on the blessing.” When I said I could get it for him but that it would cost him approximately $8,000 more, he laughed and said, “I told Jesus what I want; and because of my faith, I’ll get it.” Walking away, he said he would offer the blessing (of getting it for him) to someone else.

About three weeks later he drove back to see me – in a new Cadillac. As he was bragging about it, I pointed out several major details that conflicted with the itemized list he handed to God. He said, “Well, I got most of it.” But when I asked him how much he paid for it, he looked down and muttered something like, “It was several thousand more than I wanted to pay” and quickly drove away.

This man had probably been listening to a song from a well-known writer that included the words: “Say it, believe it, receive it, tell Jesus.” But that theology is totally backwards, and is an affront to God. That is deciding what we want, convincing ourselves it is right to have, claiming it as ours, then – THEN – telling Jesus to get for them. This is wrong.

 The truth is: Christ does not exist for us; we exist for the sake of Christ. We have no business itemizing our demands, then handing the demand to God as though He was waiting on our table at the local restaurant.

Yes, Jesus came to earth as a baby, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified, died, and buried. He rose back to life on the third day, and spent the next forty days walking among people, ministering to them, proving he was alive – and proving His divinity. He came to earth in order to remove the breach between man and God that was placed there when Adam sinned. But although Jesus taught us to be servants to each other, Almighty God is not our servant.

In the late 1890s, the theologian/politician/scholar Abraham Kuyper (Abraham Kuijper) said, “We Christians regularly fail to acknowledge our true place in creation. We aren’t just God’s creation; we are God’s possession.” I agree. We need to understand that the book of Job clarifies that no one tells God what to do.

Yes, we need to remember James 4:2-3 which says, “And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure” (GNT). What it does not say is that sometimes we “ask God” for something, but then we bypass God and appropriate it with human efforts. That is not trusting God. Rather, that is works of the flesh, and Scripture has a strong admonition against that.

Reflecting on Kuyper’s thought, what IS our place in creation?

I think it is summed up quite succinctly in Jesus’ words in John 4:34. “My meat [sustenance] is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” Since Jesus is our example of how we are to serve and honor Almighty God, we can truthfully say that OUR job is to do the will of Him that sent us, and to finish what He has asked us to do.

God didn’t ordain that we become crucified; but individually, our job is to discover what God wants of us, and do it. God’s will includes a vocation of some kind; but specifically, it is to honor Him in everything we do in life.

Our place in creation is not to tell God what we want. Rather, it is to discover what God wants of us, and obey.

What has God asked you to do?

Commander Fuchida Led the Attack

“Sweetheart, my sister just called. She wants to take us four sisters on a sisters-trip. She wants us to go next month. What do you think?”

 “That’s wonderful, Precious! Where are you going?”

“HAWAII!”

“You have to visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. That’s a must!”

“We have a month to plan our trip,” Carol responded, “but the USS Arizona will definitely be included.”

That was in June of 2003, and they had a marvelous time!

Years ago in New Mexico, three people who were protesting the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki challenged me about my emphasis on remembering Pearl Harbor. They said, “Pearl Harbor was nothing compared to what the US did to Japan!”

I responded, “You have it backwards. The reason it’s important to remember December 7, 1941 this: If the Japanese hadn’t attacked Pearl Harbor, the US would not have dropped the bombs on them. Knowing history helps us to keep things in perspective.”

Believing their gods declared that Japan would control the world, Japan was eager to expand its empire. However, the United States stood in its way, so Japan decided to knock us out. Their initial targets were our three aircraft carriers they thought were anchored in the harbor. But Admiral Nimitz sent them out to sea, and the catastrophe Japan accomplished in Hawaii did not destroy our fleet – and didn’t knock us out! (I don’t have time in this article to discuss Japans’ previous brutal and bloody campaigns in China and elsewhere.)

Although the attempt might have been made, the Japanese did not inform us about their declaration of war prior to the attack, and an unprovoked attack on American soil is not something we solve by verbal negotiation! That’s why President Bush and the US Congress (both Democrats and Republicans) responded as they did after September 11, 2001.

Japan had a long tradition of opening hostilities by surprise attack. The problem in America was that, as US-Japanese relations worsened, we ignored Japanese tradition and her history. (We keep making the same type of mistakes in the Middle-east today.)

Commander Mitsuo Fuchida was selected to train the pilots and lead the air attack on Pearl Harbor. A great tactician with a brilliant mind, Fuchida did his job well and shouted into his microphone, “Torá! Torá! Torá!” (Torá means Tiger; but is also an acronym for “totsugeki raigek.” That means “lightning attack” which denoted a complete surprise attack.)

However, as mentioned, the aircraft carriers were not there. Even as Japan celebrated the great victory, Admiral Yamamoto became deeply concerned. Although it has never been verified that he said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve,” (as stated in the movie Torá! Torá! Torá!), Admiral Yamamoto knew Japan would not be able to conduct a Pacific naval war with America for much longer than six months.

But Commander Fuchida was exhilarated! As Gordon W. Prange said on page 37 of GOD’S SAMURAI – Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor, “Years would pass before Fuchida understood that he had left behind more than smashed ships and aircraft and dead and wounded men. He also left behind a nation welded together by the fires he and his men had set—a United States that would not rest until the Japanese had paid in full for their mornings work.”

And the United States certainly did respond!

That devious and reprehensible act on December 7, 1941 forced the US populace to suddenly move from an isolation mentality to a war mentality, and that move sealed the doom for the Japanese aspirations for empire-expansion.

The focal point today for many of us regarding Pearl Harbor is the USS Arizona which was sunk intact with up to 1,117 sailors on board.

But I have another point to make.

On April 14, 1950, Captain (promoted from Commander) Mitsuo Fuchida met his Maker.

No, Fuchida didn’t die then – he met Jesus Christ and became a Christian. (He died May 30, 1976.)

Fuchida, the fearless, outspoken warrior read a pamphlet by former prisoner-of-war SSgt. Jake DeShazer – one of Doolittle’s Raiders who bombed Japan on April 18, 1942. DeShazer was captured and treated cruelly by the Japanese for forty months. Fuchida also read about Peggy Covell’s missionary parents who were murdered by the Japanese. But DeShazer and Peggy had totally forgiven their former enemies.

Not understanding the difference between war and personal cruelty, these stories intrigued Fuchida. He then read the New Testament to see what changed DeShazer’s life from bitterness to forgiveness, and what helped Peggy to let go of her deep sorrow and forgive her enemy. As Fuchida read the Bible, he began to understand life more accurately. And that improved understanding included realizing his world view was totally wrong.

Asking Jesus to forgive him, Mitsuo Fuchida’s life was also changed, and he became life-long friends with his former enemy: Jake DeShazer. Dedicating the remainder of his life to Jesus Christ, he became an evangelist and introduced many others to our Lord.

It is Jesus Christ Who can turn bitterness to forgiveness, despair to hope, sorrow to joy, and hatred to love. God did it for the man who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, and He can do it for you.

The Master Dreamer

As I was preparing this Reflection, I realized that “Dreamer” has an intense political connotation. But this is not about immigration – legal or illegal – or about anyone’s location of birth. It relates to a discussion several years ago between my son, Ron, and myself.

“Dad, are you a dreamer?”

“I dream quite a bit, more than most people. The sleep test I endured proved it. Why?”

I had no idea what Ron was talking about. I know that sleep dreaming is a function of thinking. When we go to sleep, our bodily functions slow down, but our mind – not to be confused with our brain – plods right along. Dreaming is subconsciously thinking while we are sleeping. This will be another Reflection for another time.

“I’m not talking about dreaming while you’re asleep, dad. I mean, do you dream about what you want? For example; if you were to buy a pickup truck, what features would you want on it?”

I began enumerating the many things I would want.

“So, getting a new pickup truck is one of your dreams?”

“No, I already have a pickup. It’s old, but it’s good. I merely answered your question. I don’t spend much time brooding over or pondering about something that is out of my financial reach, or that I really don’t need. For me, it’s a waste of time. But I DO ponder or meditate on things – even almost impossible things – if I think the Lord wants me to accomplish them. I am pragmatic, and my ‘dreaming’ is figuring out how to accomplish a task that is set before me.

“I also dream about how God accomplished His activities. I ponder on how the Red Sea parted, how the Jordan River stopped flowing, how God flooded the earth in Noah’s time, how God created the polar ice caps, and so on.”

“Do you come up with answers?”

“Oh, yes!”

We then talked about dreamers throughout history, and their vital importance for the forward progress of civilization. Inventors are dreamers. Two examples are the Wright Brothers who succeeded in giving America the airplane. (Some dreamers died in their attempts.)

Ron is a dreamer. My wife, Carol, is a dreamer. Thomas Edison was a dreamer. These people make life more enjoyable for the rest of us.

“Ron, I can’t be a dreamer. God didn’t make me that way. But I sure need people like you.”

“But you’re a writer. Isn’t writing a function of dreaming?”

Hmmmmm…. I had to stop and think about that one.

“Well, yes and no. Everyone who writes fiction has to dream the whole thing up. But since everything I have been writing so far relates to history, I merely need to remember or research the event, and tell it in a truthful and interesting way.”

“What about your next book?”

“You got me there, Ron. This book is about ancient history. The facts are difficult to find, and harder to piece together; and I’ve been intermittently gathering information since you were a kid. But since we don’t fully understand how they lived 4,500 years ago, part of the story line needs to be created, and that takes some dreaming. That’s why it’s taking me so long to write it. I am more of a reporter than a dreamer.”

That gives you an idea of Ron’s and my 2-hour discussion. But let me tell you about the master dreamer of all time. He needs no introduction, for you all have heard of Him. We call Him God.

The greatest history book of all time tells us about it. Genesis starts out with, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Since God never had a beginning, I wonder how long He thought – dreamed – about it before He did something. Think about it: God had no “time-limit”, no deadline in which to finish, and He had an eternity of creativity to express.

The corollary thought is in the New Testament, John 1:1-3; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him.” Verse 14 tells us the Word is Jesus Himself. Jesus is the Creator.

God made everything from the infinitesimal one-celled amoeba to the giant dinosaur; from the invisible quarks to the super-clusters of galaxies. But God had something else in mind: He made man to fulfill His master plan, and He incorporates anyone who wants to be included into His plan.

For this, you don’t have to dream; all you need to do is believe in and live for Jesus the best way you can. What’s your decision?