Chance vs Divine Providence

Charles sent me an e-mail and said, “I would really like to read your take on Chance (or Luck) vs Divine Providence.”

To answer this will involve condensing five books into 809 words. Thank you, Charles, for the request.

First, let’s understand “chance.” It deals with opportunity, accidents, random occurrences, possibilities – all without design or control by anyone. For example, I flipped a quarter in the air twenty times and let it land on the floor. I started each flip with George Washington’s head facing up. It landed heads up eight times and tails up twelve times. I ran the same experiment again, but this time I started it with the Eagle facing up. It landed heads up nine times and tails up eleven times. That’s interesting, but still, chance.

We would shift to Divine Providence now, except luck was mentioned. This goes into religion – but not Christianity.

Luck is another name for the Greek goddess Tyche; with Fortuna being Tyche’s Roman counterpart. We get the concept of good or bad fortune from the goddess Fortuna. Tyche and Fortuna are primary goddesses to whom the Greeks and Romans prayed for material blessings.

Enter The Moirae, or the Faits. These three goddesses supposedly predetermined the entire life and destiny of everyone who will ever live. That included everything the person thought, said, did, and what happened to him or her. We now call it “fatalism.”

Saint Augustine, who initially rebelled against God and believed in the Faits, eventually created a Christianized version of fatalism. He said nothing could happen without God’s specific command, and that God had predestined our entire life for us. Let’s see about this. If the average heart-rate is 70 beats per minute, God would have to stand there and specifically order each person’s heart to beat 36,817,200 time a year. Multiply that by 7,500,000,000 people in the world!

No. God sets some things in order, and commands them to keep it up.

Augustine then misapplied Romans 8:29 to support him. It says, “For whom he [God] did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son.” But Paul put the emphasis on “foreknow”; not on “predestinate.” Paul wasn’t talking about God choosing whom He will save. Instead, Paul is talking about God’s fore-knowledge of who will choose to live for Christ.

Let’s bring in sovereignty: “supreme power; freedom from external control; autonomous.” Some national governments are sovereign.

Finally, we come to Divine Providence. And that truly is God’s position. The book of Job clarifies that no one tells God what to do. God, by Himself, decides what He will AND will not do.

Providence deals with: preparation, good governance, foresight, guidance, prudent management. General Providence refers to God supporting the natural order of the universe. But Divine Providence refers to God specifically and intentionally interacting in the affairs of mankind. Therefore, we need to read carefully and understand what God said in Scripture.

James 4:2-3 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)” This 2-fold Scripture alone informs us that God requires our interaction: 1) we need to ask of God, and 2) we need to have the right attitude.

Let’s add Psalm 37:23. “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives.” God takes pleasure in interacting with and caring for His people.

Although God sees the sparrow as it falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29), He does not mandate its death. Two of my sisters had houses that burned down several years ago, but they were not hurt. My dad died of cancer at age 89. My mother died at age 97. Another sister died of cancer at age 50. People get hurt out of carelessness. My lawn mower quit today. And sickness and death are still part of the human experience (Romans 5:14).

Does God purposely engineer all that? No; all that happens because we are part of the human family. The Bible says that death will be the LAST enemy to be conquered (1 Corinthians 15:26), so we can expect the other maladies and difficulties to continue for a while.

God does decree some of what happens in human history, but does not control or mandate every human decision. Instead, God leaves personal decisions up to us (Romans 6:12-13). Nevertheless, God does respond to prayer and can use all things that happen to us for our good (Romans 8:28).

In all that happens to us, God monitors our reactions. It is our reactions and attitudes that shape us, and prepare us for our interaction with God in heaven.

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.

Fort Sumter

Dad was a chaplain in the US Navy and we moved around somewhat. So in my four years of high school, I attended four different schools: two in Southern California, the third near Boston, and I graduated in Charleston, South Carolina in 1964.

In April of 2016, the USS Yorktown, CV-5 Survivor’s Reunion was held in Charleston, and I was chaplain for the group. One day, Carol and I drove over to James Island to locate the house my parents rented and the high school I attended. This was the first time I had returned to the Charleston area since May of 1964, but I located both house and school without a hitch. They hadn’t moved.

Memories flooded my mind, and I verbally relived many of them while Carol listened. (I met Carol in Southern California in late August of 1964.) When my parents lived in the Charleston area, we didn’t visit Fort Sumter which is situated in Charleston Bay. Perhaps that was because renovations, beginning in 1961, had not been completed. But now I was looking forward to visiting the fort.

Fort Sumter was named after General Thomas Sumter – a hero in the Revolutionary War. Built primarily by slave labor, construction of the fort was started in 1829 but was still incomplete in 1861 when the War Between the States began.

There are several names for that war, and each name reflects the feelings of various groups through history. A well-accepted name is The War Between the States. Many northern folk called it The War of the Rebellion, while many Southerners called it The War of Northern Aggression. Some Europeans called it The War of Secession, but the common name here in modern America is the American Civil War. But as Colonel Butch Quick said, “There was nothing civil about it!” Well over 625,000 Americans died in that hellish conflict.

Many believe that the war was not primarily about slavery. As an example: South Carolina’s General James Longstreet is quoted as saying, “We should have freed the slaves, THEN fired on Fort Sumter.”

Understanding that South Carolina was thinking about seceding from the brand-new Union as early as 1827, Fort Sumter was not built to keep South Carolina in line; the fort was one of a series of fortresses built along our eastern coastline to protect our major ports from potential European aggression.

Our tour boat backed away from the wharf and sailed around the bow of the USS Yorktown, CV-10, that was docked nearby. The Yorktown (built to replace the USS Yorktown, CV-5 that sunk in the Battle of Midway in June of 1942) was commissioned in 1943 and is huge; but with its flight deck looming 50 feet above our heads, it looked enormous.

A twenty-minute cruise toward the Atlantic Ocean, Fort Sumter looked small with walls currently about 15 feet high. However, seventy thousand tons of New England granite had originally been imported to build the 5-sided Fort Sumter on the harbor sandbar; and the walls in 1861 were 5 feet thick and 50 feet high. It was designed to house 650 men with 135 canons.

South Carolina had officially withdrawn from the fledgling United States of America, and Confederate Brigadier General Beauregard ordered Union Major Robert Anderson to surrender Fort Sumter. When Anderson refused, the Confederate forces began firing on April 12, 1861.

The fort was built to withstand a naval assault using small, ship-mounted guns, but it could not long endure the massive bombardment from the shore-based gun batteries. Even though there were no casualties during the 36-hour bombardment, Major Anderson finally realized that the situation was hopeless.

Therefore, to save the lives of his men, Major Anderson raised a white flag. Deciding not to capture the Union forces, General Beauregard provided a boat and personnel to take the Union soldiers to a Union ship waiting off shore. Note: two years later in the heat of the war, on September 8, 1863, Union naval forces, using larger guns, attempted to regain control, but failed. Again, the fort was severely damaged.

Ninety-eight years later, South Carolina and the US Government agreed to restore Fort Sumter and make it a National Monument with a Visitor Education Center. This was being completed as I graduated from high school just across the harbor on James Island.

Fifty-two years later, I returned with Carol and the USS Yorktown CV-5 Survivor’s group, and finally had the privilege of touring the fort. I was impressed with the history and the restoration. If you have the opportunity, I would encourage you to visit Fort Sumter.

History Ignored is Freedom Lost

Have you ever watched a movie (or DVD) several times and wanted to see it again? My Precious Carol and I watched a film this past week called, “Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure,” staring Kirk Cameron. This was the second time I watched it, and I’ll watch it again. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s a 90-minute film about America’s beginning.

Because much of our national heritage is not taught in schools, a major portion of our population is ignorant of our history. This film supplies some of the details.

Psalms 78:5-7 says, “The Lord made an agreement with Jacob and gave the teachings to Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach to their children. Then their children would know them, even their children not yet born. And they would tell their children. So they would all trust God and would not forget what he had done but would obey his commands.”

I agree with that.

We start with the concept of monuments which are reminders of historical events. God told the Israelites to build monuments about what they accomplished, and about what the Lord did for them. Then they were to use those monuments as tools to teach their children about their past. My own father taught me the importance of history, and said, “If you don’t know where you’ve been, it’s hard to tell where you’re going.” How true.

Kirk Cameron wanted to know what principles the early settlers – Pilgrims – established that the Founding Fathers followed to make the United States of America the most successful example of civil, economic, and religious liberty ever developed in the history of the world.

But America became a moral quagmire because we, as a nation, slowly stopped teaching about God and the truth of our history. We also voted people into office who rejected truth – both Scriptural and historical. And now, since we don’t know where we’ve been, we are on the wrong track. Let me give you several historical facts that are hard to find in schools today.

The Pilgrims left Europe because the Church WAS the State, and the state was persecuting them. Therefore, they established a separation between Church and State. But they didn’t want a godless society; instead, they wanted God-fearing men to run the government, and to guarantee everyone the freedom to worship according to conscience.

I won’t hide the errors and flaws in early American society, but I am telling you their intent.

The_Mayflower_Compact_1620_cph.3g07155The first governmental document in America was the Mayflower Compact. The Pilgrims established this document firmly on the principle that God should be the center of our public life. This guaranteed religious freedom.

The Pilgrims did not abuse the Native Americans. Others did, but the Pilgrims treated the “Indians” as equals.

Civil authority, law, justice, mercy, education, and equality were established firmly on Scripture. That created our foundation for liberty – both civil and religious.

Our early Congress highly approved of Christianity. On January 21, 1781, Robert Aitken asked the new Congress to authorize, and, if possible, even pay for the printing of the King James Version of the Bible in America. Congress wouldn’t fund the project, but here is the approval issued on September 10, 1782:

“Whereupon, Resolved, That the United States in Congress assembled, highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion as well as an instance of the progress of arts in this country … we recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorise him to publish this recommendation in the manner he shall think proper.”

In 1783, George Washington wrote a letter commending Aitken for his Bible, known as the “Bible of the American Revolution”.

The founding fathers realized that a nation that is not based on faith in Holy Scripture and Almighty God, and that does not maintain a high moral integrity – both individually and corporately – will ultimately crumble. Therefore, our leaders kept God in our national conscience for a long time. Many WWII war bonds were issued “to preserve freedom of worship”. Our government printed WWII posters showing Hitler driving a sword through the Bible. A current problem is, many in our American Government today would do the same if we let them

We have hundreds of writings from founding fathers who professed faith in Almighty God. But many in our post-modern society want to deprive us of our national, Godly heritage. They don’t know that history ignored is freedom lost.

To maintain our freedoms, we must know our history and reestablish our faith in God.

Essentials of Christianity

Many have asked over the centuries, “Of all the religions in the world, what makes Christianity special?”

I’ve rolled this over in my mind for years, and I believe the simple answer is: Christianity is the only religion in the world in which God loves His creation, is ultimately concerned with the people, and came down to man’s level of existence in order to personally help him. Every other religion, with the possible exception of Judaism, leaves the adherent in question as to his relationship with his god and his future.

The man who recently asked me that question then asked, “Okay, what are the essentials of Christianity?” The following is a summary of our discussion.

As you may know, there are approximately 4,200 religions in the world. That covers any kind of faith or belief system you can think of. And many religions have various denominations within them. We read that within Christianity we may have as many as 33,000 denominations. That is, of course, debatable; and at least two “denominations” consists of one solitary congregation.

There may be six major religions in the world. They are: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age, Judaism, and Christianity. And each religion has its own god, gods, and/or goddesses.

Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are monotheistic, and most denominations within Christianity believe God is eternal. But several groups, including the Mormon Church, claim that God is not eternal, Jesus and Lucifer could be brothers, and men can become Gods. Therefore, Mormons may believe in millions of gods. This could actually remove the Mormon belief system from Christianity.

Other religions also have a multiplicity of gods. For example, Hinduism claims to have approximately 300 million. The New Age religion (which actually dates back to antiquity) is quite complex, and claims that every person and animal either is or can become a god. This, of course, contradicts Scripture.

With all that in mind, what makes Christianity special? What are the essentials of Christianity?

For starters, true Christians believe the Bible, and recognize that God, in the human form of Jesus, came to earth to rescue man from his own degradation; and made possible the restoration of our relationship with God.

Many theologians and teachers have their list of what makes Christianity unique, and (of course) I have my list. If any on the list were not true, Christianity would be a false religion. Also, any one of these can be broken down into several components, which is one way the list can grow.

  1. The Eternality of God (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1). He did not have a beginning, and will not have an ending. He is the “I Am” – eternally self-existent.
  2. Absolute Truth (John 7:11). Whereas many ideas, theories, and concepts are debatable, there is Truth that can be known, which cannot be negated, modified, or superseded.
  3. Inspired Scripture (2Timothy 3:16). The Bible was written by men who were inspired by Almighty God, and can lead us into relationship with the living God.
  4. The Deity of Jesus Christ (John 1:1, Mark 14:61). Jesus is fully God and fully man. This includes the facts of his virgin birth, His perfectly sinless life, His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
  5. The Fall of Man (Genesis 3:6-19, Romans 3:23). Everyone is born in a sinful state, and is destined for an eternity without God.
  6. Salvation through Jesus Christ (John 3:16, John 14:6, Romans 5:6-17, Acts 16:31). Only through Jesus can we be restored to the Heavenly Father. This includes recognition of and confession of sin; and with God’s help (through faith by His grace), turning from sin and purposely living to honor God.
  7. Jesus’ Personal Return (John 14:3, Matthew 24:36). The Bible says that Jesus will return (at a time unknown to both man and angels).

If any of those points are not true, the Bible is not true; and in that case Christianity is not true. Christianity is based on what the Bible says, and Who God is. No other religion has a god who loves the people and gave His own life to rescue them from eternal destruction.

One criticism of Christianity is: “It is exclusive.” Of course it is. But ALL religions are exclusive in some manner, and mankind is already lost and headed for a black eternity. However, since Jesus offers eternal life to ALL who accept Him (John 10:10), I believe Christianity is the truly inclusive religion.

Review of The Prodigal Son

You think you know the story in Luke 15:11-32 because you’ve heard it a hundred times? Keep reading, because this time you might be surprised. Bear with me as I put the story in a modern setting.

                          *******

A man was successful as a rancher and in his investments, and his family had everything they wanted that money could buy. He had two sons, George and Jake, both of whom secretly disrespected dad, and openly hated each other.

Disillusioned with life, one day George, the younger boy, said, “Dad, I’ve thought it over and I want nothing to do with ranching. I want to live my own life without you telling me what to do. Even though you’re not dead, give me my half of the inheritance and I’ll get out of your life!”

Wisely or not, the dad evaluated his business, sold enough stock that was equal to half his worth, and gave it to rebellious George. Jake, the older son, was ecstatic! Now everything the old man owned was his, and he would do everything he could to increase the value of the business; for he was now heir to it all!

Over the next three years, George wasted life and money on prostitutes, cars, gambling, drugs and alcohol. Now penniless, he looked for a job – anything that might provide enough money for another drug fix or bottle of booze.

Finally, rejected by all the friends his money had bought, he considered suicide. But he thought, Maybe dad will hire me to repair fences, or something. There’s enough to do on the ranch where I can stay out of his way.

He called home from the Salvation Army office. When he asked dad if he could come home, his father said, “Son, my door is open; come on home.” The Salvation Army captain took George to his house to get cleaned up. He gave him clean clothing and bought him a bus ticket.

Fourteen hours and two states later, the bus pulled into town around noon. Wondering how he would get from the station to the ranch, the boy looked out the window – and saw his dad.

As he disembarked the Greyhound bus, he said, “Dad, I’m ashamed of what I’ve done. I’ve wasted everything, and my life is a mess. Can you hire me as one of your ranch hands until I get back on my feet?”

But his father said, “Son, I’ve been waiting every day for these past three years for you to return. Everything I own is now your brother’s, but you are still my son. And as long as I am alive, my home is your home.”

When they pulled up to the big house, his mother, aunts and uncles, cousins, and neighborsDSCN0024B had a barbeque shin-dig ready; and a huge cake had been prepared that was decorated with “Welcome Home, George!”

During the party George asked his dad, “Where’s Jake?” Dad said that he was up north conducting business, and he would be home in a couple of days.

But someone in the household called Jake on his cell phone and told him that George had returned. Jake blew up!

Jake immediately called his dad and demanded, “What’s that good-for-nothing wino doing back home! I’m the one who has stayed with you and built the business. I don’t want him here living off what I’ve built!”

Dad responded, “Jake, everything I have will be yours. But George asked to be forgiven, and it is only right that we accept your brother into our home. After all, he is family.”

                           *******

You’ve been told that the story was about George who wasted half the family fortune. But George’s narrative is only the background for the real story. The parable is not about George’s rebellion, repentance, and return; it’s about Jake’s pride and rejection. George repented, but Jake refused to forgive.

You see, Jesus told the parable to the Pharisees and Sadducees who considered themselves the elite of society and heirs to the kingdom of God. The proud religious leaders thought it would lower their prestige if they forgave and accepted these repentant traitors, winos, and prostitutes into their society and into their church meetings.

But God loves everyone and gives everyone a chance to repent and turn to Him. John 3:16 says it clearly: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; and whoever believes on Him (Jesus) will not suffer eternal punishment, but will live forever with the Lord in heaven.

The moral: Pride is just as bad as living a wasted life. But anyone who truly repents, whether pastor or prostitute, haughty or humble, is accepted by the Father and welcomed into His kingdom.

Jehovah is not only a God of justice, but also a God of love and forgiveness.

Tiger – My Friend

Cats are my favorite land animal, and I talk with them. No, I am not weird. I have learned to meow like kittens and cats. I can snarl a little like them too. Let me tell you about a special cat.

He was a stray that “adopted” me when I was eleven years old. I was going through a year of depression because I was convinced that no one in the world loved me. It seemed to me that none of my nine siblings or my parents cared whether or not I was alive. Then one day, a full-grown cat announced his presence in our yard. I named him Tiger. When I asked if I could keep him, the answer was, “No.”

I begged to keep him. You see, Tiger and I had bonded within an hour of his arrival. Noting the look of anguish on my face, my parents finally consented and my spirit soared!

“But that cat cannot sleep with you; the cat will stay outside every night.” Mother was firm on the idea.

“Yes, mom; I hear you” I managed to utter. But I needed emotional comfort, so I snuck Tiger in at night anyway.

After several weeks, mom became suspicious and surprised me with a late-night visit.

“I thought I smelled a cat in here. Put him outside.”

I begged over and again to let Tiger stay with me, and mom finally relented with, “Okay. But if he messes on the floor, you will clean it up and clean the carpet.” Then she left the room.

I was sitting on the edge of the bed and Tiger was sitting on the floor looking up at me. I began verbally pouring my heart out to the critter, and – I’m not kidding – when I asked Tiger if he understood, he gently said, “Meow.” He verbally responded each time I asked if he understood.

Finally, I was ready to turn out the light. But I first cupped Tiger’s face in my hands and said, “If you have to go potty in the night, be sure to wake me up. Don’t do it on the floor. Okay?” Tiger agreed with a soft, “Meow.”

Sometime in the middle of the night, Tiger awakened me by gently rubbing my cheek with his paw. I asked, “Do you need out?” Tiger placed his fore-paws on the window sill and meowed. I opened the window and he jumped out. About ten minutes later, he reappeared outside the window. I let him in, and he said, “Mew.” I knew that meant “Thank you.” Again, I’m not joking. Tiger was my best friend.

One afternoon about eight months later, Tiger didn’t show up for dinner. Dad said, “He is probably out catting around.”

The next day, dad sent me on an errand across the 4-lane highway to buy some donuts. As I reached the median, I saw the motionless form of a dead cat. Tiger had been run over!

My emotions exploded, and I burst out crying as ran back to dad. As I sobbed uncontrollably, dad gently held me close for a while. That’s the first time in a LONG time that either dad or mom expressed love to me in a way that I could understand. After a few minutes, dad softly said, “Let’s bring Tiger home.”

Picking Tiger up with a shovel, I took him and buried him in the back yard. That was 1958, but I can still show you where I buried him.

God, in His love for me, brought Tiger to fill a void in my life. And God kept Tiger with me as long as I needed him because Tiger was God’s gift of healing to my hurting soul. But, also in His love for me, God allowed Tiger to leave when I was emotionally well enough and mature enough to re-attach with my siblings and parents. God loves us and brings into our lives special gifts at crucial times.

When you are hurting, look for God’s interaction in your life. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and don’t depend on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge God, and he will guide you.” God loves you more than you know; and He uses animals, friends, and situations to help you heal.

God used Tiger to help me for a year in my childhood; but God, Himself, will help me forever.

Leap Year – 2020

earthIt takes the earth approximately 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45.99 seconds (a tropical year) to make the 584,336,233 mile trip around the sun at approximately 66,659 mph.

Since we count only 24 hours in a day, the accumulated time in the 4 years creates another day. We add the day in February because, for some reason, February is the shortest month.

Although the Babylonians (possibly with assistance from Jewish captives) knew about the extra time and began adjusting their calendars around 500 BC to accommodate it, the Egyptians may have been the first to come up with the idea of actually adding a leap day to the calendar. The Romans adopted this solution, and became the first to designate “Februarius 29” as the Leap Day.

Julius Caesar introduced Leap Year into the Roman calendar in 45 BC, but his calendar had only one rule: any year evenly divisible by 4 would be a leap year. This generated too many leap years, and was eventually corrected by the Gregorian calendar.

Our current timekeeping system is based on universal time coordination (UTC) which employs use of atomic clocks. Leap Seconds are applied to guarantee that UTC does not differ from the earth’s rotational time by more than 0.9 seconds. Earth’s rotation seems to be decelerating at a rate of about 1.5 to 2 milliseconds per day due to the bumping of oceanic tides, so every 450-500 days another 0.9 seconds are adjusted on the clocks. However, since that slowdown is less than two minutes per century, we won’t worry about that for a while.

Many nations have complicated rules for their calendars, but Leap Year makes things even more difficult. Here are several examples that I read. If these are incorrect, I welcome correction.

  • The regular Jewish calendar consists of 348 to 355 days in twelve months, but their Leap Years have 383 to 385 days in thirteen months.
  • The Chinese leap year also has an extra month.
  • The Islamic Hijri calendar adds an extra day to the last month of the Islamic leap year.
  • The Ethiopian calendar consists of thirteen months. Twelve months each have 30 days and the 13th month has 5 days. During a leap year, the 13th month has 6 days.
  • In Iran, after six or seven 4-year cycles, they have a leap year that occurs on the fifth year.
  • This has become too dog-gone confusing!

Traditions and folklore have abounded around Leap Day; such as:

Women were allowed to propose to men only one day every 4 years year – on Leap Day. Women looking for their man were expected to wear a scarlet petticoat – possibly a warning signal. However, Leap Day has also been known as “Bachelors’ Day” because many men tried to hide from the female suitors. That reminds me of Sadie Hawkins Day in the Lil Abner cartoon.

Supposedly, a law by Queen Margaret of Scotland mandated that if a man refused marriage, he could be fined. The fines ranged from a kiss to a silk gown, and were supposed to soften the blow of the refusal.

In several countries, a penalty for refusing a marriage proposal was to buy the woman 12 pairs of gloves. That way she could wear the gloves for a year to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring.

In Finland the refuser had to buy the woman fabric to make a new skirt.

In Scotland, it was considered unlucky for someone to be born on Leap Day.

In Greece it was considered unlucky for couples to marry at any time during a Leap Year; but especially on Leap Day.

People born on February 29 are all invited to join “The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies”; and the Guinness World Book of Records lists a family that produced three consecutive generations born on February 29.

A person born on February 29 may be called a “leapling” or a “leaper.” Leaplings usually celebrate their birthdays on February 28 or March 1, but they often have fun by claiming to be a quarter of their actual age by counting only their leap-year birthday anniversaries.

But there is another more important “birthday” that we need to consider. This one is called “the second birth” when we are “born” into the family of God by accepting Jesus as our Savior. This birthday can be celebrated every day of your life, and will last throughout eternity

What is a Christian?

Some time ago, a young man asked me several questions about Christianity. Noting his confusion as we talked, I asked, “Do you know what a Christian is?” “Sure” he said. “It’s someone who goes to church; one who does good works. I know: It’s someone who loves his neighbor. Right?”

I said, “Well, all that is included in being a Christian, but there’s more to it.”

“Really? How about one who thinks positive thoughts and prays a lot?”

“No. Many non-Christians do that, too.”

“Well then, what about a person who teaches Bible studies? Or who preaches? Yeah, I know: how about being a missionary?”

“That doesn’t define a Christian, either.”

Mystified, he said, “I thought Christians did all that!”

“Yes, various Christians do all that, but so do many non-Christians. Some people preach and teach about the Bible out of a sense of duty. Many think of preaching as a vocation or think they are helping God by preaching. That’s how it was with John and Charles Wesley. They preached about Jesus for several years and led prayer meetings. They even started a Believer’s Club and were missionaries before they, themselves, accepted Christ into their lives.”

“Okay; I guess I don’t know. You tell me: what is a real Christian?”

“I’ll be glad to. They were first called Christians in Antioch. That’s a town in what we now call Turkey. Pagans used the word ‘Christian’ to mock the followers of Christ by accusing them of trying to imitate Jesus.”

“So, a Christian is someone who tries to act like Jesus?”

“Yes, but not in a phony or hypocritical way. Real Christians are truly learning to be like Jesus. The word Christian means of Christ or like Christ.”

“Oh, come on now – do you expect me to believe that? I mean, I consider myself a Christian but I don’t act like Jesus.”

Acknowledging his honesty, I read First John 3:2 to him; “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and we have not yet been shown what we will be in the future. But we know that when Christ comes again, we will be like him, because we will see him the way he really is.”

“All right then; how do I become like Jesus?” he asked.

“You can become like someone if you know him personally – or have studied him. I know my mom & dad because I spent time with them through the years, and got to know him very well. In the same way, you will get to know Jesus by reading and studying the Bible and praying. Joining a Bible study will help. Read the Gospel of John, chapters 5-10 and ask Jesus to show you how to live and think. You’ll need to ponder or contemplate what Romans 12:2 says: ‘Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.’ God won’t change your thinking for you, and you can’t do it without His help. It’s a team effort. And you should keep in mind that your actions are a result of your thinking.

“The reason so many Christians act like and talk like the distorted world is that they want to be accepted by their worldly friends. Because even many Christians don’t understand what Christianity really is, they put more importance on identification with and acceptance of people than on living for and honoring Jesus. That results in confused Christians and a weak church – even increases confusion in the non-Christian world.

“If a child grows up in the South, he’ll talk like a southerner. But if he grows up in the North, he’ll talk like a northerner because we act and sound like the people we spend time with. Therefore, identifying with people who live a lifestyle that does not honor Christ, trains us to reject Christ and Christianity, while avoiding those worldly lifestyles can give us time to learn to live a Godly life.

“Basically, a Christian is: One who has repented of sin, who has been forgiven by our Heavenly Father, who has decided to turn away from things that offend God, and who chooses to actively live for Him. These are only a few of the identification marks of a Christian, and it takes a person of high integrity to openly and publicly identify with Christ. Christians are not perfect, but they’re going in the right direction. Jesus publicly gave Himself as a sacrifice for us; are you willing to publicly proclaim that you will live for Jesus?”

The young man said, “You just taught me a lot. I want to think about it.”

Dear reader, will you think about it, too?

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?