Peace at all Costs?

I heard it again: “I want peace at all costs!” That’s an interesting cry because people who say that don’t realize it is one of the most ignorant statements a peace-loving, freedom-loving person could utter.

This is what it means: “No matter what it costs, I want peace.” They don’t know that true peace has already been established. I’ll come back to that in three minutes.

But this is what the ignorant statement entails: “No matter the financial cost, the emotional cost, the loss of personal or national security, the loss of personal or national freedoms, the loss of religious freedoms, and no matter how many people are mocked, jailed or killed, I WANT PEACE!” The clincher is: the person who makes that cry has no idea of what peace is.

So we find out: What is “peace”? Peace is actually described as: a state of tranquility, harmony, or concord, and is a by-product of truth reigning in society. It is freedom from civil disturbance; state of security or order; freedom from disquieting oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relations; and a state of mutual concord between governments.”

After reading that definition, we must ask: What is the foundation of peace? Before you answer, let me say: It isn’t waving a white flag or holding your hands up in surrender.

In the Middle-East the Israelis and their neighbors have been “talking peace” since 1948. The surrounding nations attack Israel. Israel wins and the defeated nations want peace. Then they say they will keep the peace if Israel gives land back. The US urges Israel to keep the peace at all costs. Israel does, and gives back land. The neighbors continue fighting and say they will continue to keep the peace if Israel gives back more land. Do you see what’s going on? They are lying: the neighbors don’t want peace with Israel!

In American politics, we have libertarians, conservatives, independents, liberals, and a host of other view-points. Every person will tell you they want peace; but many of them have no idea what it is, and wouldn’t know how to achieve it if they did. Why not? Many of them don’t understand the foundation upon which peace is built, and continue trying to bend politics their way.

But we must remember: peace and freedom go hand-in-hand. Peace is not the absence of conflict, nor achieved by avoiding conflict. We do not achieve peace by hiding our head in the sand. Peace is achieved by boldly but wisely facing evil, fighting it if we must, and assuring that Godliness prevails. “Peace at all costs” cannot produce peace; it produces slavery, bondage, and war. Therefore, the phrase is absurd.

So, what is the basis for peace?

Here is the shocker: TRUTH – not politics – is the foundation for peace. Abortion, sodomy, euthanasia, immorality, nudity on television, theater, DVD – the list goes on – are all based on lies and deception perpetrated by Lucifer. The abortionist wants peace, if he is allowed to kill the unborn. The homosexual wants peace, if he is allowed to press his lifestyle on others. Hollywood wants peace if it is allowed the freedom of corrupting society with gross immorality and violence. Many people demand “tolerance & diversity” but then make laws to refuse tolerance & diversity for those who disagree with them. They are deceiving themselves, and are living a lie by oppressing others.

That isn’t a manifestation of peace!

Some churches teach that peace and love are the highest ideals, but that, also, is not correct. Truth is the highest ideal, and must be taught in church, at home, in society, and in government. Do not allow the pursuit of peace, self-fulfillment, or political persuasion to deter you from living a life with truth as your foundation.

“Peace at all costs” leads to intolerance, treachery, and death. Instead, we must adopt Martin Luther’s plea: “Peace if possible; Truth at all costs!” Peace is the by-product of right intention, right thinking, and right action. Jesus said in John 14:27a [NASB]: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled.” That last phrase could mean “Don’t let the world’s troubles disturb you.”

We can have peace in our own heart and mind in the midst of a troubled world, but worldwide peace is not possible until Jesus returns. Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Therefore, with our focus on Jesus Christ, let’s establish Truth as our foundation; then pursue peace wherever possible.

You want peace at all costs? Jesus paid the high price on the cross with His life. So accept Jesus into your life, and you can have peace.

Ability versus Availability

In mid-June several years ago, Carol and I were returning home after visiting Jeremy (our son) and his family in Perkins, Oklahoma. We were on highway 33 about halfway between Perkins and Tulsa when I suddenly stopped the car and turned around. Carol asked, “What are you doing?”

Pulling onto the shoulder on the north side of the road, I said, “Look.”

Carol incredulously exclaimed, “Oh no, a fire!”

I was already calling 9-1-1. When the operator asked about my specific location, I said, “I am on Oklahoma highway 33, east of the intersection of highway 48; but I don’t know how far.”

The operator said, “No problem: we’ve got you pegged. Stay there; a truck will be on the way.”

When Carol asked how they knew where we were, I said, “GPS on my cell phone.” (That’s another story.)

Fires generate their own weather-patterns and can produce fierce winds. That becomes a major factor in the growth of wild fires, and is why they need to be spotted and put out early. In the past several years, fires had ravaged that portion of the state.

It was after 10:00 pm, dark, and we had nothing with which to douse the fire; so we were merely a landmark, waiting for someone who could extinguish the growing blaze. About six minutes later, a fire-truck pulled up in back of us. The driver said, “Thank you for calling it in, and thank you for waiting for us. You are free to go now.” That was a hint to get out of his way.

Carol and I didn’t have the ability to quench the fire, but we were available to contact those who could do the job.

Ability versus availability.

Another time, in the summer in 1976 in the heat of the day, Carol, the kids, and I were heading south on Arizona highway 89. We were almost to the little town of Congress when we saw a small brushfire beside the road. We surmised that the fire was caused by a foolish person throwing a cigarette out the window. It was hot, and a lot of dried vegetation (fuel for the fire) covered the country-side.

Cell phones were not invented until the mid-1980s, and I didn’t have one until the mid-90s. With no way to call for help, 6-year-old Ron, 4-year-old Jeremy, and I used a cardboard box, dirt, and our 5-gallon container of water to extinguish the small-but-growing blaze. In that situation, we were available and had the ability to complete the task.

What is the common denominator in those two events? Availability.

Without our presence and alertness in each of those situations, both fires might have caused great physical damage and possible bodily harm.

No, I’m not bragging; merely explaining the concept of availability. The idea is: no matter what you know or what you think you know, your knowledge cannot benefit anyone unless you are available to apply it.

“Available” means: Present and ready for use; at hand; accessible.

What about you? Are you available to mankind and to God? Although an unlikely candidate, Abraham Lincoln was available. God, Himself, doesn’t need our skills and abilities, but He does give us the privilege of exercising our gifts and abilities—what He gave us or enabled us to learn—to fulfill our portion of His plan: thus, growing His kingdom and helping mankind. You may be a computer technician, auto mechanic, writer, pastor, secretary, lawyer, politician, policeman, or fireman. Whatever your vocation, God calls each of us to work as though He (God) is our supervisor. He then helps us to be alert to situations, such as the fires, and directs us as to our part in putting them out.

Psalm 147:10-11 says, “His pleasure is not in strong horses, nor his delight in brave soldiers; but he takes pleasure in those who honor him, in those who trust in his constant love” (GNT).

The psalmist tells us that God does not rejoice in our strength and ability, but He finds pleasure in our attitude. Are we available to Him and mankind, or are we stuck on our own desires? It is our attitude that determines whether or not we are available.

I am not inferring that you need to accept every offer that comes your way. You need to pray about all that. But we can take a hint from Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan. Are you available to help? Are you available to put out various “fires” (physical, emotional, relational, etc.) that you encounter?

Pray about it. It is great to be part of God’s team.

Seeing Things Differently

Dandelions! Disgracing the yard. I want grass to mow, not weeds to grow!

One day when I got home from work back in New Mexico, I found the yard blanketed with yellow flowers that would soon be replaced by round, geodesic white puff balls that easily break apart.

To eradicate the pest from the yard, we need to kill the entire plant. If we don’t kill the taproot, the plant will grow back; so something like Ortho Weed-B-Gone, or Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed is needed.

When we were kids in Southern California, we picked dandelions and had a grand time blowing them to pieces and watching them waft away in the breeze. We were cooperating with nature by seeding the countryside, but we didn’t know we were irritating the neighbors by seeding their yards with these vicious weeds.

And now we watch our grandkids do the same thing; but we watch with mixed emotions. It’s great watching the kids having fun, but we also know we are involved in spreading the dandelion scourge.

But wait a minute. What’s so bad about these beautiful yellow-then white geodesic weeds? And are they really weeds? Do they really disgrace the yard? After that day on our half-acre up at 7,834 feet altitude, I gained a different perspective of these beautiful specimens of life.

Some folk believe the dandelion evolved about 30 million years ago in Eurasia. But no one but God, and possibly some angels, existed that far back; so how would they know. God didn’t tell anyone. The angels probably didn’t, either.

For several days, we saw the sea of yellow flowers open in the morning when sunlight hit them, and close in the shade of the evening—much like the Morning Glory, Gazania Daisy, the California Poppy, and others.

Some theorize that these type flowers close up at night to save their nectar from nighttime plant-eating thieves. Others think that these plants close up to protect themselves from nighttime chill. Who knows? Either way, we enjoyed seeing a yard of green turn to a blazing bright yellow every morning.

Dandelion—a French word—literally means “tooth of lion” or “lion’s tooth”. (I don’t know why it was given that name.) Dandelions are officially known as Taraxacum officinale; and maybe—just maybe—we shouldn’t call them weeds. I won’t itemize all the ailments they have allegedly cured because some of it is hearsay and part is doubtful folklore. But this prolific bit of vegetation does provide benefits.

In addition to preventing soil erosion, they are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, B, C, and D, and iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, and some detoxifiers, are available right in your yard. Yes, they are edible both raw and cooked. It is best to harvest them before they blossom; but be sure to get them before the white geodesic puff-balls make their grand appearance.

Dandelion tea is an inexpensive diuretic. As a diuretic (it also aids in pancreatic operation), the tea can aid diabetics and those with urinary disorders. Containing antioxidants, dandelions could be useful in reducing free radicals in the body, which, in turn, could reduce the risk of cancer. Dandelions, like celery, are beneficial regarding intestinal health.

The greatest benefit comes from eating the dandelion greens raw. If you do cook them, drink the juice to retrieve what you just cooked out.

I suppose I should add a note of caution. Diabetics who are taking blood-sugar modulators might stay away from eating dandelions; it could result in hypoglycemia. Also, many folks might be allergic to the plant. So, do your research related to your own health status.

But this whole concept (eradicating dandelions) reminds me of many who want to stay away from Jesus and His church. They think “church” or the Christian religion will hinder their lifestyle; and they want to eradicate Christ from their life.

They don’t understand that, as the dandelion has healing properties that can benefit their physical health, on a much higher plane Jesus Christ has made available benefits that will aid us both physically and spiritually; both in this human life, and forever.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Our lives began at conception; but we will live forever somewhere.

Where will you spend eternity? Jesus is truly God, and He gave His life to save you from an eternity of desolation. Don’t eradicate Him from your life. Study the Bible. Live for Jesus. Enjoy eternity with Christ. His benefits are—quite literally—out of this world.

Did God Create Evil?

I am sure you’ve heard the old story about the college student and his atheistic professor. Here is an edited version.

The professor first degrades the concept of God, then challenges Christian students regarding their faith. One student accepts the challenge.

The prof asks the student if God created everything, and the student affirms that God did. The wily prof then asks his favorite question – apparently it worked every other time – “If God created everything, did God create evil?”

The student counters with, “Sir, is there such a thing as ‘cold’ or ‘dark’?” The prof bit on it and said, “Yes, there is.”

The student then explains, “No sir, there is no such thing as cold or dark. What we call ‘cold’ is actually a reduction of heat, and ‘dark’ is only a reduction of light. Extreme cold is a greater reduction of heat and total darkness is the total absence of light. When you enter a room, you don’t turn off the dark; you turn on the light. On a wintery day, you don’t turn down the cold; you turn up the heat.”

The student continues, “In like manner, evil is the absence of righteousness.”

That specific interaction may or may not have happened, but the concept is accurate. I think the ‘light and dark’ and ‘heat and cold’ examples are self-explanatory, so let’s go straight to ‘righteousness and evil’.

Did God create an angel that became the devil with the title of Satan? Yes, God created that angel. Does that mean God created evil? The answer is “No”; but that might not satisfy your curiosity. Therefore, let me ask this: Does the Subaru Auto Company create auto accidents?

What kind of silly question is that? I’ll answer that later.

Does the Siemens Company create Amtrack accidents? Does the Boeing Company create airline crashes? Does the housing industry create house fires? The answers to all those apparently absurd questions are: “Of course, not!”

But cars, trains, and planes do crash. Houses do burn. Therefore, those tragedies MUST be caused by the creators of those machines and buildings – right? Wrong!

Although human error is evident in many situations, the creators do not INTEND for their products to crash or burn.

Neither did God intend for His “products” to fail. He knew we would, but that was neither His intention nor His plan. God simply made both angels and man with a free will. If a robot obeys, that proves nothing. But if a person with a free will obeys, that shows love or loyalty – or both.

Satan (Luke 10:18, Rev. 12:9) was obviously created with a free will to choose to obey or disobey Almighty God, the creator of all that exists; otherwise he could not have rebelled against God.

In like manner, man was created perfectly sinless in the Garden of Eden and was given the freedom to choose to obey or disobey. Genesis 2:16-17 says, “But the Lord God gave him this warning: ‘You may freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die.’”

But Satan tricked Eve, and Adam willingly disobeyed God (Genesis 3:1-6, Romans 5:14). Later their older son, Cain, got upset with God and murdered his brother, Abel. And things got worse from there.

Throughout the Bible, God implores man to obey; yet man disobeys (Gen. 6:5). And in a disobedient state, man commits atrocities against man. Murder. Rape. Pillaging. Enslaving. Torture. Adultery. Theft. Gossip. Slander. You name it, and man did it. But it wasn’t God who created the crime.

God, Himself, gave us basic guidelines to follow. Several of them are: honor your parents, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t commit adultery, and they are part of the foundation of American law. Whenever man obeys God, he is kind to others. He honors others. He helps his fellow man. But when man disobeys God, he becomes evil. Man chooses how he is going to live and act. Man is the culprit – not God.

Dark is the absence of light. Cold is the absence of heat. Evil develops in the absence of righteousness.

God did not and cannot create evil. Evil is the attitude and actions of someone rejecting God. Therefore, evil is produced when man turns his back on God and Scripture, and lives for himself. When man rejects God, man produces every kind of evil (First Peter 3:11). And God doesn’t override man’s arrogance.

On the other hand, when man cooperates with our Loving God, righteousness, peace, contentment, serenity, prevails. Remember: God gave us a free will, and He wants us to live a healthy, honorable, productive life. And whoever decides to live for God and honor Him simultaneously chooses to live with Him in heaven forever. It is our choice of how we will live, and where we’ll spend eternity.

Don’t blame God for people’s evil actions and the hell it generates here on earth. But choose to live for God.

Husband/Wife Relationships

Throughout history, there has been a general misunderstanding about the relationship between husbands and wives. Actually, the misunderstanding has been between men and women in general, but we’ll limit our talk today about the family. Looking at the concept from a different perspective, there is a major misconception about what the relationship is supposed to be. Pictured here are my grandparents.

My brother, Colonel Paul E. Linzey, Chaplain, US Army (retired), wrote an article for a US Navy group called the USS Yorktown, CV-5, Survivors’ Club; and Paul graciously allowed me to reprint his column here in its entirety. I believe it properly presents the desired husband/wife relationship.

Designed to Help

The first term in the Bible for couples is not husband, wife, spouse, partner, or mate. The first word is “Helper.” After God made man, he looked and said, “Hmmm. Something’s not good here. He needs help” (Genesis 2:18).

Our first role in the marriage is to help. But when God made the woman to be the man’s helper, it doesn’t mean she is less important. It doesn’t mean he is the main character.

Throughout the Bible, God is called our helper. In Deuteronomy 33:29, “The Lord is my shield and helper.” Psalm 10:14, “God, you are the helper to the fatherless,” and Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

We tend to think of a helper as someone who’s less important, a sidekick who is subordinate. Not the hero, but a support role. This isn’t what God had in mind when he created marriage.

“Helper” in the Bible is just the opposite. God is our helper, and he’s certainly not the sidekick. He’s the strong one. The same term is used for the first woman, with no hint that the woman is of lesser value.

In marriage, a woman represents God to her husband. Similarly, a man represents God to his wife. Each of us needs help in many ways. God is our help, but he often uses people to be his hand extended, his love expressed.

My wife is a teacher. When she moved to a new office across campus, I helped move her books, files, and other stuff. When I was yelling at my computer, my wife solved the problem and taught me a few things about the software.

We all need help. What if we started thinking about how we can be a helper? Can our words bring healing instead of pain? Can our actions invite peace instead of strife? Can our behavior encourage rather than tear down our partner?

Life is hard in many ways. We need someone to come alongside, put an arm around us, and be there for us. God invented marriage so we’d have a friend to help when the going gets tough.

I highly value Paul’s insights, and I believe he is right. Visit his web site at https://paullinzey.com for more information, and to see the books he has written.

Carol, my precious wife, is my best friend. After nearly 54 years of (mostly) wedded bliss, we still learn from, depend on, and help each other. Knowing each other, “warts & all”, we have fun. We playfully pick on and lightheartedly laugh at each other’s mistakes; and we play Scrabble every night. But we don’t mock or hurt each other. Instead, we share insights and encourage each other in our hurts, and whole-heartedly rejoice in each other’s successes and accomplishments…even when she wins at Scrabble.

Life has changed in the past hundred years. Women, wives, mothers may also be teachers, CEOs, and political leaders. Also, men often fulfill their vocational responsibilities at home. Household chores and responsibilities are now shared more equally by both husband and wife. But no matter what role they take at home or in the public arena, neither one is less or more important than the other.

The marriage relationship must be addressed and worked on every day for harmony to reign in the home. Difficulties normally surface when one or the other is not doing what God asks of him or her. But never mock or demean your spouse. Pray for each other.

What does the Lord want of you? That’s also what you should pray about and decide for your particular family. Whatever you decide, honor your spouse. A major side benefit of this is that by honoring your spouse, you honor the Lord and bring honor to yourself.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.”

As a reminder, visit Paul’s web site at https://paullinzey.com.

What Song Are You Singing?

Five years ago, Carol and I attended a church meeting where Ron and Tanya (our son and his wife) and their singing family were ministering. In his presentation, Ron discussed how music is produced. Ron started with, “What song are you singing?” I enjoyed that message.

What is the basic ingredient of music? No, that’s the wrong question. What makes music? That’s closer, but still not it. What produces music? That’s it! What produces the sound?

Ron shared with the congregation that music and singing – ALL music and singing – is generated by friction and/or vibration. Another view is: all friction and vibration produce some kind of “music”.

The bow across the violin (string instruments) generates friction. The air through the mouth-piece of the clarinet (reed instruments), flutes and piccolos, and across the lips of trumpet players (brass instruments) generates vibrations. The piano produces music by the hammers impacting the strings, which generates vibration. The drums need no explanation. Then, of course, the various instruments transform the vibration or friction into musical notes.

Oh, I missed something. Talking is produced when the vocal muscles come close together, and the air passing over them sets up a vibration. And singing is merely talking according to musical note patterns and holding the sound according to specific timing. As we constrict the vocal chords, the sound or tune goes up. As we relax the muscles, the sound or tune goes down. That principle holds true with tightening or relaxing the strings on stringed instruments; also when shortening or lengthening the airway (using valves) on brass instruments. Well, some trombones have valves where most have slides

As the sound is produced, harmonics, partials, fundamentals, frequencies, chords, waves, overtones, and much more come into play. There are twenty-one major “keys” such as the keys of “C” and “G sharp”.

I just spoke the sentence “All sound is musical in nature” near the piano. I then played the keys to match my words “All sound.” The notes were “D” for “All” and “D flat” dropping to “G” for “sound.” When I spoke, various strings in the piano began vibrating – this deals with harmonics. Again, singing is talking according to note patterns. .

So, as you talk, what “song” are you singing? What words are you putting in your song?

Are you a griper? Do you gossip? Are you a whiner or a complainer? Do you “thunder” at people, condemn others, or put them down? Are you often depressed or angry? Are you often pessimistic or overly critical of others?

Or are you normally joyful? Do you bless others by both your words and by your prevailing attitude? Do you defend people? Are you an encourager? Do you help people by “carrying” their emotional load?

Friend, what song are you singing?

Gripers, gossipers, condemners are like musical groups (vocal and instrumental) who are out of tune, and where some members are on the wrong page – or even playing a different song. Some folk are like a raucus rock group where lyrics and quality of music make no difference; rather it is merely their presence and volume that are important. As these people dwell in the negative, irritating side of life, they would be surprised at the friction, harmonics, and overtones they produce. That kind of “music” or attitude greatly reduces the quality of life for both speaker and hearer.

Oh! But joyful people – those who encourage and bless others, those who have Godly content in their words and attitudes – are like a magnificent concert orchestra and choir. Their harmonics are a gift from the Lord.

While the Mormons and I may have theological differences, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one of the best choirs I’ve ever heard. And I enjoy hearing the United States Marine Band play any of John Philip Souza’s marches. But I suppose my greatest musical appreciation is directed to Handel’s “Messiah”. That oratorio, properly sung and played causes my spirit to soar, because from start to finish it honors my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even as of this writing, I have excruciating back pain, but my song today is: “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free; For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

Friend, by your life, words, actions, and attitude, what song are you singing? What message do you present to the world – just by “being you”?

Same Ground – Different Results

Carol and I love nature. We both were raised “in-town”, but we thoroughly enjoy driving along the coastlines, through forests, prairies, mountains, and even deserts. There is beauty in all of nature even though some people cannot see it.

The first time Carol’s mother drove from Washington State to New Mexico, she thought New Mexico was a wasted desert. However, after living there for several years, she learned to enjoy its beauty and didn’t want to leave. New Mexico is called “The Land of Enchantment” for good reason.

But we are also farmers at heart. We enjoy planting seeds, flowers, bushes, and trees and watching them grow. In 1974 we planted a Banana-Apple tree sapling in our front yard in Los Alamos, NM. We moved to Tulsa in 1978 so we didn’t have the privilege of eating its fruit at the 5-year mark. But in 1988 we moved back to Los Alamos (not to the same house) and visited the old place. Believe-it-or-not, the tree had grown so large that it nearly overshadowed the front yard! We had done a good job in preparing the ground prior to planting it, and the underlying soil was good for the tree. The owners gladly allowed us to take as many apples as we wanted, and we belatedly enjoyed the fruit of our labors. The apples were delicious in pies, strudel, crisp – and eating raw. They were good!

Even though I understand nature and farming, something always surprises me. I plant anything that crosses my fingertips in the same dirt. I give them all the same water. I treat them all with the same care. But different things sprout out of that same dirt. Although the same environment may be used, onions, potatoes, corn, yams, cucumbers, zucchini, beets, carrots and the rest are programmed to grow at different rates, to different sizes, to look differently, and to taste differently. The same ground produces different results.

The environment is basically the same – dirt, water, air, cultivation, weeding, debugging, etc. – but with minor variations, the results can be remarkable! We fertilize the ground and adjust the nutrients and minerals to match the needs of the seeds or bulbs, and that produces a difference in the quality of the product. If I kept everything exactly the same, something would still grow; but seeds respond differently to variations in the environment.

Do you know that we plant seeds into our own minds? Day after day we watch or listen to television, radio, the theater, DVDs, CDs, etc. We listen to all kinds of music and bombard our bodies with various levels of noise. We read books, magazines, newspapers, advertisements. We listen to audio books, gossip, slander, political debates, classroom teaching, sermons. What goes into the eyes and ears enters our minds and becomes part of us. Stuff is being planted into the garden of our minds day after day, and what we fertilize grows the best. The method of “fertilizing” what is in our mind is called “meditation”; and a simple definition of meditation is: “spending time thinking about what we have seen and heard.”

Psalm 19:14 says, ‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation [thoughts] of my heart [mind] be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

You should ask yourself: Is God pleased with my thoughts?

We also “plant” seeds into other people’s lives. What we say to others – whether good or bad – produces a harvest. We either help others live a higher quality, more productive life, or we stunt their growth to where they don’t live up to their God-given potential. We must assure that we make positive comments for people to meditate on.

However, don’t confuse “negative comments” with “corrective statements.” Life doesn’t consist of a “Pollyanna World” or a 100% positive environment; therefore, we should learn to make necessary corrective statements in the proper attitude. Also, we should learn to make corrective adjustments in our own attitude. This is a lifetime process and I am still working on it.

I hope you understand that our minds are fertile ground, and what we see and hear eventually produces a harvest: some good fruit and some bad. Our character may be blossoming and maturing to where we can bless God and man, or it may be stunted as a sterile tree planted in contaminated ground. Sometimes a sterile tree looks wonderful until “harvest time”. That’s when the real nature of the tree is revealed. (Read Matthew 13:25-30 about the wheat and tares.)

Friend, what’s growing in the garden of your mind? What do you meditate on?

Works? or God’s Grace?

Martin Luther stated that we are saved by grace, but I read in the book of James that we must do “works” to be saved. And I was told that we don’t live under law anymore. Please explain this.              C.K.

Martin Luther was quoting the Apostle Paul, so you might be pitting the Apostles Paul and James against each other (and James was Jesus’ half-brother).

Paul said in Ephesians 2:8–9, “By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not by works, lest any man should boast.” And James said in James 2:17–18, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (NRSV).

Paul was talking to those who came from an idolatrous background, and whose “worship” consisted of “religious activity.” It didn’t matter what they thought or whether or not they believed in God. Rather, it was things they did that others could see that got them points with God. They thought they had to earn their way to heaven. So Paul emphasized that our actions (works) will not save us, or even prove our relationship with God. Paul was attempting to balance their belief system.

James came from the opposite direction. He was talking to different people who believed that they could say anything, do anything, and live any way they pleased (including moral debauchery); but as long as they had good thoughts in their mind or said the right words, God would accept them and they were saved. But James told them that what they called faith was fruitless, inactive, or non-existent if their actions didn’t support or verify their words. He told them that if we are saved (if we actually have a living relationship with God) our lifestyle (works, obedience) will verify it. James was attempting to balance this other extreme view.

Paul said that salvation cannot be earned or worked for: it is a gift. And James said good works and Godly living will be a result of our faith in Jesus Christ.

So Paul and James are both correct. Nothing we do can gain us favor with God. Words in and of themselves are meaningless, and works in and of themselves are hollow. Rather, God is concerned about what we are. If our relationship with God through Jesus Christ is established, our words and works will be guided by the Holy Spirit and will be authoritative and powerful. What we believe AND what we do will be affected by (or because of) our relationship with God.

Both Martin Luther and the Apostle Paul will agree with this: Our actions or lifestyle (works), thoughts and beliefs (faith) are both necessary to live for Christ. Good works will not save us. But because we are saved, we will do good works.

Now, there is a controversy over living under grace versus living under law.

Regardless of what we say we believe, those who purposely continue to live in sin will live under the law and will be judged by the law. The only reason we live under grace is because we have stopped living in sin, confessed our sin, asked God to forgive us, and we now obey God’s law. But whoever reverts to a sinful life, reverts to living under law.

That is not circular-reasoning, but Godly logic. Just try telling a policeman that you cannot get a ticket for driving 100 mph because you live under grace. The patrolman might say, “Very well; after you pay the ticket, you can resume living under grace – if you obey the law.”

Someone asked if I were a legalist. I told him that Jesus said In Matt. 5:17-18, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, ‘till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, ‘till all be fulfilled.” So, am I a legalist? Perhaps – in the correct meaning of the word. I do believe in the law.

However, Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Therefore, as long as I obey God’s law, I live under grace.

Enjoying Time Together

It’s near the turn of the year again. Wow! Time sure seems to fly by. As Carol and I were playing Scrabble last night … before I go any further, do any of you play Scrabble? How about Yahtzee, Monopoly, Life, Pictionary, Dominoes, or Balderdash? Do any of you put puzzles together? Do you eat together as a family, or as a married couple? Or is it “each person is on his own”? Are you obsessed with getting ahead in life, fearful about the direction of the stock market, or worried about what’s going to happen in the Middle-east?

I suppose my basic question is: do you, as a family, spend time together anymore, or are you individually cocooned in your own little world, worried about life, or mesmerized with your video games, tweeting, texting, or whatever else is available these days?

Let me ask another question: if you died tonight, what would you be remembered for? Stop a minute and think about it. …….. What did you come up with? Be honest with yourself: no one is listening to your thoughts except God, but you can’t fool Him anyway. What would be your legacy?

I know men and women who left much monetary gain to their families, but that didn’t earn them any greater respect or love. I know some who were famous in the scientific and/or educational fields, but the families were distant from them. I know some who were ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but they, also, were rejected by their families.

WHY??

One reason might be hinted at by a question a reporter asked Billy Graham years ago: “Mr. Graham, if you had your life to do over, would you change anything?”

“Yes,” replied Billy Graham, “I would probably spend less time on the road and more time with my family.”

“Why is that, sir?”

Billy’s response was misunderstood by some, but hit home to my heart. He said, “The ministry will always be there, but my family won’t be.”

Did you hear it? That comes very close to what Jesus said. It was so important that it is recorded in Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, and John 12:8. When Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, at least one of the disciples was upset at her for wasting it. Judas said that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. But Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you, but I will not be here with you much longer.” Jesus was not denigrating true ministry, but He did put an emphasis on Christ-honoring relationships.

So, back to my question: what will you be remembered for? Five months after your funeral, after the will or trust has been settled, what will the family members say about you?

This is why I’ve invested much time playing with our kids as they were growing up, and why my Precious Carol and I play Scrabble and other games with each other now in our upper years. We are still investing into each other’s lives.

Yes, I preach or teach as the doors open, and as you know by reading this blog, I write a lot. But life should not consist of merely learning, earning, and accumulating stuff. The most important thing is growing in our relationship with God, then manifesting our faith in Jesus Christ by how we live with and treat others.

Our children are all adults now, and we have 36 grandkids – at last count. But I still greatly enjoy spending time with and investing my life into my Precious Carol. And she invests her life into me.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. We were playing Scrabble.

Although we are competitive, we have fun while using the game for learning. Therefore, we use the dictionary to look up words. At times we show each other where the other might get more points. You see, we figure that no matter who wins on a particular evening, we both win because we love each other and enjoy spending time with each other. And using the dictionary is increasing our vocabulary which helps us as we interact with society. Using the dictionary also helps us as we grow older.

As of this writing, Carol and I are tied at 401 games. That means we’ve played 802 games, and that’s only since I’ve been keeping record.

This coming year, learn to enjoy spending time with your family – you don’t know when your time on earth will come to an end. When you die, will you wake up in Jesus home … or somewhere else? Think about it.

Let’s honor Jesus in all that we do because we want to spend eternity with Him.

Happy New Year, friends.

Look Beyond the Lights

What do you want for Christmas? Last year, that question was asked numerous times in over 127 million homes in the United States, and it was amazing what kind of answers were given.

According to a Gallup poll, American adults will spend an average of $920 on Christmas gifts this year. And another report stated if all the Christmas money was spent on American products, it could create over 4,000,000 jobs.

Here’s some interesting trivia. In the USA, 62% of us buy our gifts the week before Christmas, 47% of women would want jewelry, 32% of men prefer gift vouchers, and 23% of men and women won’t make their choices without the help of social media. You can find much more information on the internet about every facet of Christmas holiday life. Oh, yes: 43% of Americans put up decorations before Thanksgiving Day.

Eight hundred years from now, if some historian dug up these statistics, plus all the rest of the information I didn’t print here, would he or she know what Christmas was all about? I know how my dad would respond. He would ask, “How many people TODAY know what Christmas is all about?”

In the third paragraph of this reflection, I said you can find much more information on the internet about every facet of Christmas holiday life. Although that might be true, it is somewhat misleading because what is called Christmas holiday life does not speak about Jesus Christ, and Christmas was originally all about Christ. Therefore, we need to separate Christmas holiday life, which is secular, from Christmas and a Celebration of Christ Jesus, which is holy.

I admit, every mid-December, Carol and I like to drive around and look at the houses that are illuminating the neighborhood with lights and winter scenes, with a few nativity scenes interspersed. We’ve taken hundreds of pictures over the years of some the more spectacular settings in Seattle, Dallas, Tulsa, San Diego, Albuquerque, and other places.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Ho-ho-ho. The Chipmunks singing. Choirs. Cantatas. Lights all around town! But what’s going on in real life? What would we discover if we looked beyond the lights?

In one direction, we find a lot of temporary happiness, fun, parties, and gift-giving taking place. Many folks indulge in alcoholic drinking, over-eating, and immorality of every kind in an attempt to mask their emotional emptiness and interpersonal problems. That’s like putting duct tape over a gash in the tire, hoping the tire won’t go flat again. Duct tape won’t work for a flat tire, and after the holiday blitz is over, the problems, pain, and depression remain unchanged; and many people terminate their lives hoping to end it all!

However, if we look in the other direction, we find people who see the light-filled season in a different light. Pardon the pun.

Joy? Fun? Parties? Gift-giving? Cantatas? Yes, and a whole lot more! But the joyful times experienced by these folks are not masking hurts, pains, or depressions. Those who know and honor the Lord Jesus Christ give of themselves and of their resources to help those who are in need. The celebration is real, and reminiscent of the light-filled sky the shepherds experienced more than 2,020 years ago when the angels made the world-changing announcement about the baby they would see wrapped up and lying in a manger. And giving gifts to others reminds us of the Wise Men who honored Almighty God as they gave gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the child, Jesus Christ, in Mary’s lap.

Oh, yes. I know that many non-Christians give to others who are hurting. Various businesses have turkey-drives and toy-drives, and our society supports numerous charities. I am grateful for that. We have government programs that help the homeless to some degree. But those activities and programs provide only short-term help.

When the Christmas season is over, what do people do? Think about it.

If the pain, problems, and depression haven’t been resolved, people start the next year with the same bitter or hopeless outlook on life they had before Thanksgiving. But there is hope!

That hope is found in relationship with Almighty God through the Lord, Jesus Christ. But we have to look beyond the lights, beyond the glitz, beyond the noise and hoopla that the world throws in our face. We need to look into the face of our Savior, Jesus Christ.