Death Valley

When we reached California to visit our son and his family, Ron asked, “How was the trip?”

“It was a tough trip. I went through the valley of death just to see you.”

“Really, Dad? So you, a 74-year-old Californian, finally visited Death Valley National Park. Was it worth the time?”

“For a Californian, definitely, YES. But I think for a US Citizen, the answer is still, Yes.”

After Carol and I drove through Bryce and Zion National Parks on May 10 and 11, our next visit was to Death Valley.

There are three basic routes to visit the Valley: the Fast Route, Scenic Route, and the Explorer Route. Any of the three are worth the time spent, although I think the Scenic Route is the most rewarding.

Situated in the northern Mojave Desert, Death Valley is an intriguing part of our Country. Here’s an interesting travel trivia tid-bit. The highest point in the Continental United States (that excludes Alaska and Hawaii) is Mount Whitney. The lowest point in the US is Bad Water. Are you ready? These two geological points are only 88 miles apart. Mount Whitney reaches 14,494 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, and Bad Water is in Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level.

The Valley is also the hottest spot in the Western Hemisphere. When we visited it on May 12, 2021, the temperature was 110 degrees F. A year earlier on August 16, the temp reached 130 F. The highest air temperature ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere was in Death Valley on July 10, 1913. It was 134 degrees F. But there’s more. The hottest surface temperature ever recorded on earth was in Death Valley on July 15, 1972. That was 201 degrees F, and some folks fried eggs on the ground. I hope they didn’t eat them.

The Valley is called a “graben” which is a block of land between two mountain ranges that has dropped, probably due to earthquakes. Over 5,000 years ago, the Valley held a 100-mile-long lake which was about 600 feet deep.

Have you ever heard of climate change? Long before industries developed and before we contaminated the atmosphere, several thousand years before the Pilgrims came to America, climate change was already well-developed, and Death Valley Lake, along with thousands of others, dried up.

The area turned to desert and most of the water evaporated which left an abundance of crystalized material; the primary one was borax. Borax was mined heavily from 1883-1907. Have you ever heard of Boraxo, or 20 Mule-Team Borax? It came from Death Valley, and the Pacific Coast Borax Company sponsored radio and television shows called Death Valley Days. The radio program ran from 1930-1945, and the television show ran from 1952-1975. Ronald Reagan was the narrator of the television show from 1964-1965.

Several geological faults intersect in the Valley, and the Amargosa River runs into it but disappears in the sand. And, if you’re wondering, it snowed once in January of 1922.

The Valley is home to the Native American Timbisha tribe, formerly called Panamint Shoshone. They called the area “tumpisa” which means “rock paint” because red ochre paint is made from the clay found there.

On February 11, 1933, President Herbert Hoover declared the area as Death Valley National Monument, but in 1994 it was renamed Death Valley National Park. Located in California and Nevada, it’s the largest national park in the 48 states, and has almost 1,000 miles of roads in it. Dress with loose-fitting clothing and take plenty of water with you during your visit.

But why is it called Death Valley?

In the 1849 California Gold Rush, about 300,000 adventurers went to find their fame and fortune. A group of 13 were just a few who entered the Valley but didn’t understand the dry heat of the deep desert and didn’t take enough water. They were found dead, and people called it a valley of death.

Do you know that millions of people around the world today are searching through an emotional and spiritual valley of death for fame, self-worth, or mere acceptance, while others are seeking wealth, power, and prestige? That craving will never be satisfied outside a relationship with Jesus Christ. Fulfillment in this life, and joy throughout eternity is found only in Jesus.

Visit Death Valley but live for Christ. The treasure you seek can be discovered by reading the treasure-map, the Bible.

G. W. Carver and J.H. Pickle, Jr.

Have you heard of these men? Both are scientists … well, J. H. is still a scientist, but G. W. was a scientist until he passed away in 1943.

David Pickle called me last week and said he had a book for me, so I drove over to get it. It was so interesting that it didn’t take me very long to finish reading it. The book was compiled and written by Dave’s brother, John H. Pickle, Jr., and it’s an amazing account of his father’s interaction with the outstanding scientist, George Washington Carver! The title of the book is, One of His Boys.

Quoting from the back of the book, “George Washington Carver is today remembered in part for the many products he derived from the peanut, a crop he urged on Southern Farmers to replace cotton and avoid soil exhaustion and the boll weevil. Less known are the multitude of college students Carver took under his wing over the years in relationships that were cherished by and valuable to the scientist. One of His Boys is the story of the mentorship of Johnnie Pickle, one young man inspired to follow in Carver’s footsteps after witnessing firsthand the Wizard of Tuskegee’s wisdom.”

Johnnie Pickle had the privilege of meeting the African American scientist in 1932. Because of this “chance encounter” Johnnie was inspired to become a scientist. Johnnie’s son, John Jr. also followed in Carver’s and Johnnie’s footsteps, and [quoting the book] “spent thirty years developing products for farmers to use. He is now retired and continues to promote good science.”

Dr. John H. Pickle, Jr., spoke about their father’s long-time interaction with Carver. The presentation was at the George Washington Carver National Monument on Saturday, September 11, 2021. I attended and enjoyed the presentation as well as enjoyed meeting Dr. John Pickle.

Carver was the most prominent black scientist in the early 1900s. Two of the things he is famous for were crop-rotation and creating over 300 uses for the peanut. I found it quite interesting that, until 1870, peanuts grown in America were primarily used as a garden crop, and its primary large-scale purpose was hog food until around 1932.

Here’s a bit of peanut trivia.

President Thomas Jefferson was a botanist and grew peanuts. The peanut was nutrition for soldiers during the Civil War. Known as goober peas, the Southerners pronounced them gooba peas because the word from Africa was, nguba.

Enter George Washington Carver, the Wizard from Tuskegee.

Quoting Carver: “All my life, I have risen regularly at four in the morning to go into the woods and talk with God. That’s where He reveals His secrets to me. When everybody else is asleep, I hear God best and learn my plan.”

One morning, George asked God why He made the peanut.

Quoting Carver: “He told me, separate the peanut into water, fats, oils, gums, resins, sugars, starches, and amino acids. Then recombine these under My three laws of compatibility, temperature, and pressure. Then you will know why I made the peanut.”

Eight of these discoveries are flour, paste, insulation, paper, wood stains, shaving cream, tires, and skin lotion.

That heavenly advice helped Carver discover over 300 uses for the peanut, and that changed the South, changed ethnic relations, and changed the agriculture industry.

I laughed when I learned that Carver didn’t merely “talk to God.” He “conversed with God.” That’s exactly what prayer is supposed to be – a conversation with God. Carver said, “God speaks to us every hour, if we will only TUNE IN.”

God is alive, and He wants to communicate with us. If I do all the talking, I’ll get no answers. I know what my problems and needs are, at least I think I know, but God really knows them. If I merely recite to God what He already knows, I’m not learning anything.

But if I listen, I can hear God giving me helpful information – as He gave Carver information. God communicates with me often, and wants to converse with you, too. Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep know My voice.”

God listens, then responds to us. Do you listen to God?

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.

What Have You Been Up To?

“Hey, Gene, I haven’t seen much of you lately. What have you been up to?”

You may have a different name than I do, but has anyone ever asked you that kind of question? Most likely.

I suppose I have been out of sight from many of my friends recently. Yes, the covid pandemic took its toll on socializing this past year – and still is to some degree. But I’ve been busy for other reasons.

As a former pastor, I receive calls to fill in for ministers when they are on vacation or attending church conferences. Sometimes they call me to preach or teach on a special topic. If you read my blogs, you know that I am a devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But last year I added another role: I format books. What is it that? One man said, “I write em, you format em, P&L publishes em.” And that is true. It is laborious and time-consuming but rewarding. I enjoy hearing people say, “I never believed I would actually get that book written, let alone published.”

A question many people ask is, “Who do you work for?” My answer is, “I work for you, the author.” And that is the truthful answer. However, the company I represent is P&L Publishing and Literary Services. You can read about them on their web site at plpubandlit.com.

So, what does a formatter do? The process is not fast, but it is simple to understand.

  1. Someone writes a story. This can take anywhere from a week to several years. The manuscript could be a novel, a historical account, a devotional, a how-to teaching, a cookbook, how to catch fish, or about anything you can think of. But then the writer wants it published.
  2. This step often involves an editor. Not always, but often. The editor is a professional who improves the writing and makes the book a better product. You can find more about our editing services on plpubandlit.com. The next step is where I come in.
  3. The formatter gets the necessary information from the author, puts the manuscript in the proper format and uploads the manuscript. Many of my authors do not go through an editor, but just want to publish the book. As the man said, “I write em, you format em, P&L publishes em.”

I have obviously oversimplified the process, but it gives you an idea of the publishing procedure and what I do.

If you are interested in writing a book but don’t know how to start or go about it, P&L also offers mentoring and project development services. But my part is formatting. If you’ve been writing and you now want to get it published, contact P&L Publishing and Literary Services at plpubandlit.com. Tell them you heard about them on my blog. Or, you can contact me directly at masters.servant@cox.net.

And now you know what I’ve been up to lately: I preach, teach, write, and format. I hope to hear from you.

Have a great day.

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?

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.

A Must-Read from a Well-Loved Professor

Many of you who are reading this blog are university professors, teachers, teacher’s assistants, and vocational teachers. Many others are pastors, Bible teachers, CEOs, and business instructors. You all know how important it is to develop a good relationship with your students and colleagues because it is that relationship which enables the students to more readily assimilate your teaching.

On the other hand, most likely all of you have been students at one time or other, and you know what it’s like to learn from a great teacher and be bored with an ineffective teacher.

In all my studies at the collegiate and university level, I’ve met and interacted with many teachers and professors – both men and women. During those years, three men have made a profound impression on me. Dr. Gary L. Royer is one of those men. I want to tell you about him because his recent book, published in March of 2020, is a must-read if you want to learn about a deeper aspect of life.

Dr. Gary L. Royer, adjunct faculty member at Southwest Assemblies of God University, released his latest book: Out of Darkness Into His Wonderful Light. The book is based on the course he taught about the spirit world. He wrote it at SAGU in 1997, and has taught it nearly every semester since then. Many students have declared that the course changed their lives.

Upon retiring from classroom teaching, Dr. Royer was encouraged by many of his former students and fellow professorial colleagues to put his notes for the course into book form. Foreseeing that the book would be used in bible studies and personal reading, as well as in the classroom, he divided it into thirteen chapters with study questions at the end of each chapter.

Dr. Royer writes, “So many students have told me that, although they faithfully attended church every Sunday morning, they had never understood the spirit world. It was a delight to write and teach an organized presentation of this subject of the Spirits of God, ministering angels, demonic spirits, and the powerful human spirit.”

Dr. Gary was one of my instructors at the university – in fact, my favorite instructor at SAGU. I add my voice to many others who say he teaches from a deep relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, from an in-depth knowledge of people around the world, an in-depth knowledge of the spirit world, and with a love for his students.

With the skill of a biblical scholar, the spiritual insights of a Spirit-filled minster with much experience in dealing with spiritual problems, and with practical guidance in recognizing, addressing, and finding freedom in Christ, Dr. Royer presents this needed book. It is comprehensive in scope and is informed by other experts in addressing spiritual issues in dealing with the demonic and the spirit world. His text is centered on biblical insights, especially the Book of Ephesians, testimonies of many who have experienced spiritual bondages, and how they found freedom in Christ.

This is not a book of extremes, but a well-written and biblically balanced approach to a complex subject. Specific prayers are given which lead the reader in understanding how to approach God for help.

I encourage you to purchase several copies of the book, Out of Darkness Into His Wonderful Light, because you may want your family and friends to read it.

You may order it from Dr. Royer, or directly from Amazon.com at https://www.amazon.com/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3ADr.+Gary+Luther+Royer&s=relevancerank&text=Dr.+Gary+Luther+Royer&ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1

Feel free to contact Dr. Gary Royer, B.A., M.A., D. Min/Missions, at groyer@sagu.edu