Frustration with the Unknown

I would like to talk coherently about the flu, but with so much conflicting information floating across the world, it’s difficult to know what to say. So, I’ll start by saying that this flu is a real disease.

I don’t know where you lived, but I grew up in Southern California. Flus made the rounds every year, and I probably got the flu every other year. Although I always recovered, every year thousands of people died from the flu.

The common logic for us was: “If you’re sick, stay home!” There was no mandate to push on us. If we had a cold, the measles, the flu, or any other contagious ailment, we stayed home. It’s silly, if not stupid, to go out and share diseases.

Am I afraid of the covid flu? No. I might have had two strains of it while on travel. Guess what? I stayed in the trailer until I got well. I might have gotten a third strain, and I stayed home. I understand the covid is a real sickness. But I did what I did as a kid, and in each event, I got well in record time. Also, after every trip, Carol and I self-quarantine.

Early on in the pandemic, N95 face masks were touted as being a major factor in controlling covid-19. But what do we get at the stores? These flimsy little corrugated paper things we hang in front of our face. Some folks tell us the masks mainly protect the wearer. Others say they primarily protect others. Yet others say they don’t protect anyone at all. And ….

Oh, let’s get off the mask thing. Nothing is for sure about masks, anyway.

Early on, we were told that if 75% of our population gets the shot, we can control the covid. Woops … make that a double shot. Oh, my goodness, perhaps a third round might be necessary. Now we’re talking about annual boosters. But in all instances, the injections are touted as the cure for the disease.

Oh-oh, millions of people are getting the shots and wearing masks, but the pandemic is getting out of hand again.

Now we’re being told that an apparently healthy person with no covid symptoms can make a person who is “fully-vaccinated” sick. How does that work? Aren’t the first, second, and possible third shots supposed to protect people?

For many years, it was common knowledge that when a person got sick and recovered, he or she was naturally immunized against the disease. It’s been verified around the world. Verified in the home in which I grew up, and I have nine siblings.

But now we’re told that the immunity generated from a man-made chemical is superior to the natural immunity created by human bodies after fighting off the real sickness. Incredible.

What if we’ve already had and recovered from covid-19? What if our temperature is normal? We’re told it doesn’t matter, get the injection anyway. Again, incredible. Apparently, many of our citizens never studied critical thinking. Logic is no longer part of our culture.

Covid-19 and the variants are real diseases. Multi-thousands of people have died of it. But flus have killed people for thousands of years. So let’s be wise. If we’re sick, stay home and don’t spread the illness. But let’s also tell the whole truth.

In courts, witnesses formerly were asked, “Do you swear (or affirm) to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” Most people answered with, “I do.”

What’s that got to do with the pandemic?

The death numbers related to covid are questionable. I’ve recently seen several reports making statements like: “The provisional death count is ….”

Provisional count? We’re not sure what the cause of death was?

And “Thirty-five more people have died of covid-related diseases.”

Covid-related? What does that mean? Hmmmm …They might not have died of covid?

The main problem here is that the real disease, however it got here, has become a political football. Misinformation, misstatements, misunderstanding, and outright false statements have made the rounds from many people, and we’re frustrated with the unknown.

Publicly we don’t have many answers, yet some good guidance is being rejected.

What can I say about all this?

If you need or want medical assistance, get it. But don’t force your choice of remedies on those who don’t want them. And don’t argue about it.

But keep this in mind: fully vaccinated people are dying of covid and the variants while millions of unvaccinated people are getting sick and recovering.

So, what’s really going on?

If in Doubt, Throw it Out

“Mamma, what’s that yucky green stuff in the ice box?”

Wait a minute. Do any of you know what an ice box was?

Years ago, those things that held food didn’t plug into the wall and were made out of wood. The door on the upper portion was not for ice cream or to freeze your meat and vegetables. You opened that door to put in a 25-pound block of ice. As the ice melted, you could put other food in with it. The ice absorbed heat, melted, and cooled the food in the lower section. Cool, huh?

By the time I entered this world, my parents had long-since replaced the ice box with a fancy thing called a refrigerator. No more visits from the Ice Man. By the way, Carol and I saw a real wooden ice box in the Tillamook County Museum in Tillamook, Oregon. Memories! Buy some Tillamook cheese while you’re there.

These new-fangled refrigerators plugged into the wall and had a compartment that would keep ice cream hard if we put it in the back, but it would freeze meat, vegetables, and water anywhere in that compartment.

Because of our upbringing, we still called it an ice box. However, I had to start calling them refrigerators because in the 1970s I was an appliance repairman, and no one knew what an ice box was.

But where was I? Oh, yes. It was in the 1950s and my parents were visiting some friends.

The mother came into the kitchen to answer the cry about yucky green stuff. “What’s the matter, Maureen?”

“Mamma, there’s yucky stuff on the cheese. What is it?” The little girl was pointing to a dull greenish-blue fuzz.

“Oh, my goodness! Mold is growing again. Well, let’s just cut the green off, and we can eat the rest.”

Today, we understand that the roots of the mold grow deep into the food, and we usually just throw the moldy food out. However, our ice bo – excuse me – our refrigerators today still grow mold under the right circumstances. And we now understand that mold and bacteria are growing before we can see any of it.

So how do we know whether or not the food is fit to eat? Usually, we smell it.

The fungi and bacteria on meat will normally give off an unpleasant odor before the yucky green stuff, or any slime, is visible.

I don’t want anyone to die, or even get sick, from food poisoning; so, years ago I developed one very important phrase as an appliance repairman, and I still say it today: If in Doubt, Throw it Out!

It’s worth memorizing because our health is much more important than a few dollars’ worth of food.

You can find on the internet the procedures for handling and caring for various kinds of food. And it’s quite simple.

But there is a more insidious poison growing in our culture. I call it spiritual and mental poisoning.

Mental health today is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and is complex, cumbersome, and costly! The primary reason is that people don’t see or smell the problem. This poisonous garbage has been insidiously foisted on our culture. But if it is culturally acceptable, it must be good. Right?

Wrong!

Many people are being accused and jailed for sexual immorality. It is gross, ugly, demeaning to men, women, and children, sexist, humanly degrading, and is one of three primary evils offered to our culture through theaters, television, advertisements, and DVDs.

Another evil is hatred. Blatant, cruel, murderous, evil hatred.

The third is evil music accompanied by gross, inane actions of the singers.

The church isn’t helping the situation because a large section of its members supports the garbage industry by paying for it and watching it; and many Christians are just like the world: they don’t seem to understand that it is poisoning humanity.

If people would simply evaluate what they’re watching and listening to, they would easily see that it is destroying us. But reading and studying the Bible would give them wisdom and alert them to the calamity they are bringing upon themselves.

First Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Stay away from everything that is evil.” Simple! That would cure most of the mental problems.

If people want to do what is right, they could objectively realize that it is not good for them. They would realize that it destroys families, society, and the church. They should get rid of it.

But for those who are not sure: If In Doubt, Throw It Out!

Actually, whoever is feasting on it, is either sick, or deceived by the world.

Judgment starts in the House of God, so you Christians should get the garbage out of your homes and lives. Then we can make a positive impact on the world.

Memory & Mental Health

In 2018, Carol & I were in Young Harris, Georgia, at the USS Yorktown CV-5 Survivor’s Club Reunion.

The purpose of a reunion is to socialize with friends and family, help us remember an event, or to celebrate the life of a person. The original purpose of the Yorktown reunions was to give the survivors of the USS Yorktown at the Battle of Midway (June 3-7, 1942) opportunities to share memories of life on board the ship – including experiences of the hell that erupted during battle – as well as memories of life’s experiences after the war.

Dad was stationed on the Yorktown from 1939 to June of 1942. In 1953 dad reentered the US Navy as a chaplain, and after retirement became chaplain of the CV-5 survivor’s club. I had the privilege of attending several reunions with dad and enjoyed hearing the ‘war-stories’ the men told.

Although most of the Yorktown veterans endured horrific experiences during the bombing, strafing, and torpedoing, those who freely shared their memories with others suffered much less mental anguish about it. The freedom to talk about the events often reduces PTSD. Visiting memorials and sharing memories with others is therapeutic, and aids in positive mental health which, in turn, can remove the need for long-term counseling.

Years ago, a man racing a 595-pound, 1200cc Kawasaki motorcycle at 95 mph plowed broadside into a Datsun (predating the Nissan) that our son, Ron, was driving. The wreck splintered the bike, killed the biker, destroyed the Datsun, and sent our kids to the hospital.

Ron was 16 years old and I didn’t want an emotional scar to develop, so I encouraged him to talk about what he experienced. As Ron initially related everything he remembered about the accident, we took many pictures of the aftermath; and every day for two weeks, I asked him to talk about it. At first, it was difficult. Then we discussed the event several times a week for a month. He relived, analyzed, and discussed the incident until he could narrate the event objectively – without emotional pain

The result? He has clear memories of the event and is sad about it, but he has no emotional scars and no mental trauma to overcome.

Those who will not talk about or share their feelings should at least write them down. Write out your experiences in as much detail as you can.

A good friend up north was having severe marital problems, but he would not violate his vows and did not want to hurt the children. Not willing to talk about it to anyone, he quietly, secretly, and in great detail, wrote his anxieties, emotions, bitterness, and frustrations as letters to himself. After writing each letter, he read it to himself – sometimes tearfully and in pain – then sealed it in an envelope and hid it. Each week he sealed another envelope, and never opened any of them again. Although he didn’t share the letters or his feelings with anyone else, he continually asked God to help him.

After several years he overcame the problems that plagued him and he was healed. He didn’t forget the problems. In fact, refusing to bury or hide them, he acknowledged his emotional struggles and communicated to God about it all. Then he asked the Lord to help him forgive his wife.

The situation improved and years later he died a happily-married man. As a side note: his wife didn’t change much. It was the process of opening up and releasing the problems – and forgiving her – that enabled him to accept his wife as she was and receive his healing.

Sharing memories with others can release emotional pressure and help maintain or regain positive mental health. But be sensitive to others. Don’t badger or bore them. Be willing to listen as well as to speak.

Forgiving and not holding grudges, and talking about problems in a positive manner, is similar to disinfecting a wound: the memory bank is cleansed and emotions are healed.

But also consider Philippians 4:6-7; “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

So spend time with family and friends, develop good memories as you enjoy life. Your happy memories will be one of your most important blessings in later life.

Truth Must Prevail

“With your expertise with words, why didn’t you become a lawyer?”

I’ve been asked that question often and the answer is simple. But first, let’s review the historical American judicial concept.

  1. Innocent until proven guilty. The first reference I could find to that phrase is from the Law Reports of the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1835 that says, “The law presumes all innocent of crime until proven guilty.” Americans wanted to prevent rule by emotion and/or prejudice. And the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution (1868) grants all citizens – including former slaves – equal protection of the laws. We wanted to assure that ALL American citizens were treated equally and fairly.
  2. Everyone gets a fair trial. Governments in the old countries gave preferential treatment to nobility and wealthy people. But we’ve declared that a defendant will be tried by jury consisting of peers in the same locale who desire truth to prevail. This fair-trial principle assures that time is permitted to gather evidence, that truth-seeking lawyers are available to represent both sides, and for justice to prevail.
  3. Justice will prevail. Whether by judge or jury, we want the innocent to be free from any legal retribution, to receive adequate restitution, and the guilty to face the consequences of his/her crime. Justice is the administration of law, the determination of right and wrong according to a standard of truth. And a standard is not variable; it is solid, fixed, immovable.

A legal standard assures equality in the three points listed above because it downplays emotion and over-rides prejudice.

Now let’s review current practices within our judicial system.

Lawyers play games with both defendants and victims. While it is true that a defendant should be represented by a legally astute person (lawyer), the defending lawyers often cover up truth in an attempt to prove the person is innocent. This is intentional. They are trying to do their job. Also, the prosecuting lawyers tend to go overboard in demonizing the defendant in order to gain the greatest ruling for his/her client. On both sides, truth is not the issue: word games are employed and winning the case is the prize.

In order to play the game adequately, the standard of law is set aside. Defendants are often tried outside the locale in which the crime was committed; and as much as possible, jurors are chosen if they know nothing of the case, then are told how they must judge. In other words, jurors are often not free to judge according to the crime.  

Sometimes as the defending attorney sees that he is losing the case, he will employ the procedural rule: You missed this step or the police did that wrong, therefore, my client should go free. Other times the the lawyers intentionally make either the accused or the accuser the target of the judicial system.

What happened to the standard of law? Or, you may ask, what IS the standard of law?

A legal standard is a code that is a systematic and comprehensive statement of laws. The code of Hammurabi dating back to 1755 BC is one of the oldest. The Ten Commandments were given to Moses around 1450 BC, and these are foundational to the Bible. The Roman Empire based their law on the Law of the Twelve Tables of 451 BC (Lex XII Tabularum). Of course, every empire and major nation had or has their legal code.

The United States of America based our legal system on the Bible. It is a Judeo-Christian system with overtones of Hammurabi, Greece, Rome, and England intertwined. And we thrived as a nation as long as we lived by that standard.

Why didn’t I become a lawyer? Our judicial system is no longer based on the standard of law, but flounders on the floating quagmire of relativism and argumentation. Truth is not the focus and is often ignored in the fight to win the case. I strongly reject that judicial farce.

To further complicate matters, morality is also set aside. Right and wrong are decided on the prevailing winds of relativism – not on Hammurabi, the Ten Commandments, The Twelve Tables, or the Holy Bible. Men and women (judges and Congress) over-ride the standard – the Holy Word of God – but I openly establish my ethics on the Bible and on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Insisting on “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God,” I wouldn’t last long as a lawyer.

But take heart: Jesus will re-establish truth and law when He returns. And He WILL return.

I Was Laid Off

Last week I talked about trust. This blog shows how trust and faith in God helps us.

In September of 1980, Rockwell, International in Tulsa hired me as an aerospace journeyman tool & die maker. I had previously worked for Boeing Aircraft Company as a toolmaker, so I knew the job. Boeing’s new plane was the 757, and Rockwell was building major portions of the fuselage.

But in the fall of 1983, we were finishing our portion and layoffs were announced. As four toolmakers were being laid off each week, my friends worried about me because we had young children to feed. I began worrying, too; but I finally prayed about it.

My prayer was simple, “Lord, what am I going to do?”; and I heard in my mind or spirit, “You’ll be here for at least three more years.”

I’ve never heard God speak audibly, and I don’t expect to in this life. But that was a direct answer to prayer. Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

The next day my friends began helping me worry again, but I told them, “Don’t be concerned about me. I’ll be here at least three more years.” That set their hives a-buzzing! But I didn’t tell them how I knew.

Two weeks later, the supervisor announced that eight of us would be laid off the following Friday – and I was included.

That’s when the Lord prompted me to tell them how I knew; and I was surprised at the mockery I received that entire week. Even my Christian friends thought I was nuts. In front of the workers, the supervisor told me, “Gene, you will be laid off. Don’t make things up.” Giving me my pink slip, he was, however, intrigued at my calm demeanor and my confidence.

On Thursday, the day before my layoff, we were told to clean out our toolboxes, and Friday would be a “free day” – show up but do no work. I told him I wanted to continue working through Friday evening and clean my box out on Monday. Shaking his head, the supervisor agreed.

Friday morning, the supervisor called us to a group meeting. When he publicly asked me if I was ready to be laid off, I told him I wasn’t leaving. He asked me if was sure about it, and I said “Yes.” One of the workers asked if I thought I really heard from God, and I said, “Yes.” Many of them snickered or made derogatory comments.

The boss said, “You with pink slips, step forward and hold them up.” We did. He then looked directly at me and said, “Ten minutes ago, I received a notice from the main office. Tear those slips up. Your layoffs are cancelled, and we are bringing eight others back.”

THAT set their hives a-buzzing!

They gathered around me and wanted to know more. I had a great opportunity to tell them about Jesus and how He leads us … if we listen. For some reason, they all held me in much higher esteem.

What they didn’t know was, this was God’s story, not mine.

The next year I was promoted into management, and had my own crew building portions of the B1-B bomber. But several years later, our contract was winding down and I was given the option of either being laid off within the month or becoming a toolmaker again – then being laid off. That’s a “no-brainer”: be a toolmaker – it’s a paycheck.

 Four months later, when word came that layoffs for the toolmakers were on the horizon, my friends asked me if I was going to be laid off. I said I would pray about it.

Three days later I told them, “I have heard nothing from the Lord. Therefore, I can only assume that I will be laid off.”

That sent shudders down their spines, because that meant they would be laid off, too. A month later, I cleaned out my toolbox. But, believe-it-or-not, I was hired within two weeks by McDonnel-Douglas in Saint Louis, MO.

From the time I heard “You’ll be here for at least three more years” to my eventual layoff, almost four years had passed.

Not only did that episode teach my friends about praying and listening to the Lord, it increased my own faith in Jesus Christ. And that’s what the Lord wants from all of us: learn to pray and listen. If we do, our history will become His Story.

I can only encourage you to pray and ask the Lord for guidance. He can help you through any and every problem.

The Disappearing Light Beam

I’m sure many of you have seen a cat chase things. Butterflies, moths, mice, strings, almost anything that is small that moves. Kittens and cats do that, and I call that one of the many “cat antics.”

Our daughter had my laser pointer and was playing with her cat – Tiggy. Tig was in her 4-wheel-drive mode with all claws extended to get traction so she could make split-second turns on the carpet. Rebecca finally allowed Tig to “catch” the light beam. But you should have seen the perplexed look on the cat’s face when she lifted her paw only to find that the “bug” had escaped. After looking around for a minute, she walked away.

But our dog, Tyke, had been watching. He knew better than to interrupt the cat because Tig was older and had seniority in the family. Rebecca gave me the laser pointer because I had a different plan.

I put Tyke through the same maneuvers as Rebecca put Tiggy, but with Tyke’s size and slower reactions, I went slower. The dog tired out quicker than the cat and Tyke finally just laid down on the carpet. That’s when I employed my second thought.

I moved the light beam slowly just out of Tyke’s reach as the critter watched. I gave jerky movements with the light and Tyke’s head jerked each time. Then I did it. I ran the beam up and touched his paw.

You should have seen it! Tyke yelped and jumped off that carpet as though a big rock dropped on his foot. Then he looked at me, back at the light beam, slowly went up to sniff it, but I turned it off before he got to it. He looked back at me, then, using his natural sniffer, tried to find it. He never did.

Tiggy’s and Tyke’s perceptions were that the light beam was a solid object, and they reacted according to their perception of reality. Do you know that people do the same thing?

Years ago, I read of a professional basketball player who playfully pointed his gun at a friend. Sincerely believing the gun was not loaded, he acted on his perception of reality and pulled the trigger. When the resounding explosion subsided and the smoke cleared, his friend was dead.

Perceptions can be beneficial, a diversion, or a devastating error, and we must always get a reality check before we make a decision. I understand it’s quite difficult to give Tiggy and Tyke a reality check, but we can help people. Let’s look at two concepts.

Financial security. There’s nothing wrong with gaining financial stability. We are wise to plan for the future, including for retirement. But throughout history, money has disappeared like that light under my pine tree. Stock markets around the world have crashed. Expenses due to sickness have soaked up saving accounts. Casinos have gladly emptied people’s bank accounts. You can think up many other scenarios.

Millions of entrepreneurs have created companies that have given financial blessings to countless millions of people around the world. A great many business owners became prosperous and retired with an abundance of wealth. But many businesses fail. The average failure rate is 20% within the first year, and up to 50% within five years. Like the light the critters chased, businesses disappear.

Tree branches. I cut several branches off the trees in our back yard. When the grand kids saw them two weeks later, the younger one exclaimed, “Grandpa, the branches are still alive. We could plant them and make some new trees.” I explained that the needles on pine tree branches will stay green for almost a month after it was cut off the tree. The branches look alive, but they’re really dead. Appearances are deceiving.

Financial security and business ownership are wonderful, and grants freedom from worry.

But when our blessings disappear, when our securities vanish, when our health turns sour, when our lives become unstable, when a lot of what we perceive to be real dissipates, what should we do?

For those of us who have a dynamic relationship with God and have been trusting Him for our REAL security, the disappearing lights are disappointments but are not personally destructive. Our faith is not in temporal things that can vanish, but in Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 13:5, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

And He won’t. Therefore, get to know Jesus and put your trust and your faith in Him. He is no disappearing light beam. He is Alive!

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?

A Resolution

Years ago, a man from Oklahoma called me. He was despondent and was looking for financial assistance – again. This man was in his thirties.

He was raised in a Christian home, affirms that he is a Christian, has spent time memorizing Scripture, sung in church choirs and gospel quartets, played his instrument in church orchestras, led in Bible studies, and discussed theology and history with others. He had a good-paying job. This man is loved by many people because he is fun to be with. We’ll call him Jake.

But Jake is in jail. Bond was $57,000, with a cash requirement of $5,700. The family could not pay it and he was in for awhile. What happened to Jake?

I located and talked with some of his family members. They told me about a statement Jake made while a teenager. The statement was: “I want to live a life of sin; that way, when I get older, I’ll have a good testimony of how God saved me from a bad life.” And he purposely turned to a life of alcohol, drugs, sex, and gambling, and has wrecked every car he had.

Jake doesn’t remember that resolution, but he told me, “A person will never change his way of life until he decides to change. Whether it’s through a Christian organization, secular counselling, Alcoholics Anonymous, or prison, a man changes only when he wants to change.”

I responded, “So THAT’s why you’re in jail: you’ve decided not to change. And because of that, I will not help you.” That caught him by surprise. I continued, “Jake, your continual return to your degraded lifestyle confirms that you don’t want to change. When you decide that you want to change, I’ll be available to help you.”

Jake has been in-and-out of jail five times on various charges. Apparently, he’s a “model” citizen as a prisoner – even leading in Bible studies. He has gone through detox several times in jail, and is clean when he gets out. But he goes right back to the stuff when he is free.

Free – that’s an interesting concept.

One of Jake’s acquaintances recently told him, “If you would turn to the Lord – truthfully, not merely with lip-service – the Lord and others would help you. If you would honor the Lord by the way you live, the Lord would help you get out of bondage.”

Jake erupted: “I’m not in bondage!”

His friend squelched the laughter until the phone call ended. He told me it was funny because Jake is in a 3-fold bondage: emotionally, spiritually, and physically (in jail). Make that 4-fold: he’s now in financial bondage.

And it’s all because of that resolution he made many years ago.

How about you, dear reader? Are you in any kind of bondage? Have you made decisions that have hurt you emotionally, spiritually, financially, or physically?

Here’s something to remember: a firm decision is a resolution. Also, a decision – firm or not – becomes a resolution if it isn’t modified. Ponder that one.

Many folks like to wait until January 1 to make a resolution. But why wait to make a good decision? Waiting to do the right thing is practicing procrastination. Waiting to make the right decision is a bad resolution. Waiting to make a good resolution verifies that you don’t want to make it.

What would you like to change this year? Let’s rephrase it: What have you resolved to change this year? While you’re thinking about it, let’s remember what Jake said: “A person will never change his way of life until he decides to change.”

You want to quit smoking? Quit indulging in alcohol? Quit wasting your family’s money, and God’s money, at the casinos? How about quit gossiping or slandering? Are you running from God in any way? Would you like to have a better understanding of who Jesus is? Would you like to have a better relationship with your family? Would you like to, overall, improve your life?

It takes a simple decision – then ask God to help. That’s a resolution.

Before my parents were married, my mother told dad, “I won’t marry you if you don’t stop smoking.” That was a resolution.

Dad said, “I tried to quit, but I can’t.”

“You need to pray about it – now.”

Dad did two things: He decided to quit smoking, and he asked God to help him. That was a resolution. He cooperated with God: that’s the key. He never smoked again and they got married.

If you have a decision – resolution – to make, ask God to help. If you’re sincere and honest with God, He’ll help you. That’s God’s resolution.