The Beatitudes are Progressive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did Jesus begin this teaching?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE BE-WHATITUDES?

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

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

But I did mentally retain other verses that made sense to me. Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” And John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” I understood those verses, even in the King James Version. In fact, most of what I committed to memory was from the KJV.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let Freedom Ring!

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

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

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

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

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

Back to freedom of religion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christians, Pay Attention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has God asked you to do?

Old Things Pass Away …

What’s the rest of the axiom? You got it: Behold, All Things Become New.

That comes from 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

That verse is talking about turning away from sin and selfishness, and deciding to live to honor Jesus Christ. And we need to remember that. But this week I will use the verse in a different context.

Three days ago was New Year’s Day. And if you’re reading this, you survived. Wonderful! But what’s next? Did you make any resolutions?

Grandpa Linzey was born in February of 1888 and graduated to heaven in 1987, three months before his 100th birthday anniversary. He was a practical man, and didn’t have much use for celebrations. His days were wrapped around tending his animals, and Grandma’s job was to tend the garden. One day when I asked Grandpa if he ever made New Year’s resolutions, he said: “Son, resolutions are empty, and most people break ‘em on the day they make ‘em. It’s just another day. The sun will rise, and the troubles we have today will be with us tomorrow.”

That sounded rather bleak.

But it reminded me of a friend in New Mexico who made a resolution every year. Every December 31st he said he would stop smoking cigarettes starting January 1st. And he did stop—for four or five hours. I finally told him, “You have decided not to quit. Why make a pretend resolution?”

“Oh, it gives me something to look forward to. It makes me feel good to say it. And I can teach the kids that smoking is bad for us.” That was over two decades ago, but now his son smokes, too.

Grandpa was right. Perhaps most resolutions are not meant to be kept. And perhaps my friend was right: it just made him feel good to say it.

But even if someone wants to make a change, there might be a built-in flaw in waiting until January 1st to incorporate the change. The flaw is in waiting because waiting to make it is a subconscious affirmation that the change might not be necessary.

Dad, also a practical man, once told me, “If you are serious about wanting to change, don’t wait until New Year’s Day. Start the change now, and ask the Lord to help you.” And through the years I have proven Dad’s statement to be true.  (That’s my grandson, Caleb, next to dad.) Dad continued, “Don’t make a statement and call it a resolution.”

If you think a change is needed, resolve, or determine to change. Make up your mind, ask God to help you, then set your will to cooperate with God. When you are tempted to resume your former ways, remind yourself that God is ready to help. Ask the Lord for emotional strength to keep your promise. The key is to be honest! Be honest with God and with yourself.

What was it that Polonius said in Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3?  “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

God did a marvelous thing when He created us in His image. He created us with will-power, and He wants us to use it for His purposes. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that we can do whatever He empowers us to do.

Do you want to change something this year? Don’t be hypocritical. Make sure it’s in line with God’s will, and then ask God for help. If you are honest, God will help you make that change. This year can be a New Beginning for you. I know the covid-19 stuff has turned the world upside down, but God is willing to help you. Ask Him – He’s listening.

Then you can rejoice and say with 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Old (unnecessary, improper, wrong, harmful) things have passed away, and behold, all (needed, good, wholesome, healthy) things have become new.”

Oh yes: if you find that Grandpa was right and you broke the resolution, Don’t Give Up! Things don’t normally change with one statement or in one day. It took time to form bad habits, and it will take time to change. So, don’t quit. With God’s help, you can make, and keep, good resolutions.

Happy New Year, Friends … 3 days late.

Look Into the Face of Jesus

Who is this baby we call the Messiah? John 1:1-3 starts at the dawn of human history. “In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him.” Verse 14 says, “The Word became a human and lived among us. We saw his glory—the glory that belongs to the only Son of the Father—and he was full of grace and truth” (NLT). The baby, Who was (translated into English) named Jesus, was previously called both the Word and God.

Luke 1:26-35 tells Mary’s side of the story. The angel appeared to Mary, informed her that God favored her and chose her to be the mother of the Messiah. The angel told her to name the baby Jesus.

Can you imagine Mary’s shocked response? “I’m engaged, but I’m not married yet, and am still a virgin! How am I going to have a baby?”

The angel replied essentially, “Mary, this is an act of God. If you’re willing, God will supernaturally plant the seed within you, and you’ll remain a virgin until after the baby is born.”

With trepidation, Mary agreed with the angel. But Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, had a different reaction.

Matthew 1:18-25 gives us Joseph’s viewpoint. Joseph wanted nothing to do with an unmarried, pregnant woman! He intended to dump Mary for being pregnant out of wed-lock, but the angel finally convinced him of God’s plan, and that Mary was honest, undefiled, and still a virgin. The angel told Joseph in a dream that God wanted him to marry Mary, the baby was to be named Jesus and would [eventually] save people from their sins. Understanding the shame and derision they would endure, Joseph accepted Mary as his wife and adopted Jesus as his own son.

The Imperial decree ordered all men to return to their town of birth for the Roman census, so Joseph took Mary and went to Bethlehem. On the night of Jesus’ birth, the first yard to light up the community on the first Christmas was the field just out of town.

That’s where we read that after the angel scared the daylights out of the shepherds, the angels gave the world-changing announcement that God had entered humanity in the form of a baby. When the shepherds calmed down and believed the angelic message, they were the first visitors to look into the face of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and to welcome God, in the form of a baby, into the world. I also believe they were the first to offer a gift on Christmas night. They gave a lamb to the new-born King.

The wise men, Persian scientists, received the message of the new King as they studied the sky. Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known” (NLT).

About a year later, these scientists were the first visitors of their kind to welcome God into the world. Looking into the face of our Savior, in the form of a toddler sitting in His mother’s lap, they gave Him gifts fit for a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Remember that I said Joseph adopted Jesus – the Son of God – as his own son? Now the situation is reversed. If we accept Jesus as our Savior and live to honor Him, God will perform a miracle and adopt us – humans – into His heavenly family. And that introduces another miracle: Jesus, Who is God, is the best Friend a person can ever have!

Christmas is not limited to a starry-eyed baby lying in a manger. It wasn’t intended to be depicted by trees, lights, glitz, hoopla, parties, noise, and a lot more associated with the secular holiday event.

Christmas is about God entering humanity to rescue us from our uncontrolled descent into debauchery and death. God entered humanity as a baby, died on the cross as a man, but broke the curse of sin and death by rising from the dead as Almighty God on the third day and returning to heaven. That’s what Christmas is really all about.

Give gifts. Enjoy the season. Love your family. But look into the face of Jesus. Honor Him in everything you do.

Merry Christmas, friends.

How Do You Celebrate Christmas?

Do you know that the first hint in the Bible of what we call Christmas is in Genesis 3:15? A lot happened between Genesis 3:15 and Matthew 1:18, but we won’t go into all that today.

My questions are: How do you celebrate Christmas? Do you go over the river and through the woods to visit grandma? Do you read the Scriptures that talk about Jesus’ birth? Do you take a trip? Invite people to your house? Do you watch movies or football games? What’s your favorite Christmas meal?

I looked up historic Christmas celebrations. For about 300 years after Jesus’ resurrection, there were no observances of His birth – therefore, no festivities. The first one recorded was in Rome, on December 25, 336 A.D., but didn’t become a primary Christian observance until the 800s. Decorating trees started in Germany, but had nothing to do with Christmas.

In the fourth century, church officials decided to observe Jesus’ birth as a holiday; and for non-biblical reasons, Pope Julius chose December 25. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 A.D., and to England by the end of the sixth century. By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders thought that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but in doing so, they gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. Therefore, on Christmas, many people attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere.

Hmmmm … It seems like that still happens today.

Noting societal debauchery, prevalent poverty, and abusive child labor in Victorian England in the 1840s, Charles Dickens vowed to do something about it, and writing was what he did best. So, in 1843, he published his novel, A Christmas Carol. Although the book is more a work of sentiment than of Christianity, it captures something of the Christmas spirit.

Dickens wanted to insert joy and gladness into a life filled with drudgery, dreariness and death. While acknowledging the seriousness of life, he portrayed the Spirit of Christmas filled with miracles and laughter. He also reminded society of the importance of blessing others by caring for those around them. Dickens encouraged joy and human-kindness, and inspired a positive change in society.

How do Carol and I celebrate Christmas?

We read about the birth of Jesus in chapters 1-2 in Matthew and Luke. That sets the tone for the celebration. We often visit one of our kids, but this year we’ll visit our daughter’s in-laws, Robert and Phyllis Crawford, near Oklahoma City. And instead of buying gifts for our families who live far away, then pay more for mailing them, we’ll mail the allotted money and let them choose the gifts.

Have you heard of the song, Over the River, and Through the Woods, To Grandmother’s House, We Go? I grew up singing it at Christmas, but it was written as a Thanksgiving Poem by Lydia Maria Child in 1844, and referred to Grandfather’s house. I find it interesting that where Carol and I live, all five of our children and their families have to travel over rivers and through forests to reach us.

My favorite Christmas meal is not turkey. (Shhh…don’t tell Carol.) My favorite is ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, yams with marshmallows, and fruit salad with whipped cream. Two to three hours later, I want pumpkin or apple pie with vanilla ice cream! Oh, yes – and coffee.

I like to watch football. On this coming Christmas day, the Minnesota Vikings will play against the New Orleans Saints. But I won’t watch it. Not on Christmas Day. This is a time to spend with family, which includes church family, and helping others.

We usually watch It’s A Wonderful Life the week before Christmas. It helps us to realize – again – the intrinsic value of each and every life. I hope that every one of you reading this reflection understands that every person is important. If you are hurting emotionally or are happy, if you are sick or healthy, if you feel rejected or accepted, if you are poor or wealthy, please believe me: you are important! Whatever may be your status or position in life, reach out and help others. THAT, my friend, is one way of manifesting the spirit of Christmas…the Spirit of Christ.

I understand that the covid-19 pandemic is putting a crunch on worship services, family gatherings, and celebrations this year, but you can still give to others. Be creative and find a way.

But stop and think about what this celebration is really all about – Jesus Christ. He came as a human baby, but never relinquished His true identity – God.

That is spelled out in John 1:1-4. “In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him. In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people.”  

Then verse 14 says, “The Word became a human and lived among us. We saw his glory—the glory that belongs to the only Son of the Father—and he was full of grace and truth.”

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season.

Commander Fuchida Led the Attack

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

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

“HAWAII!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the United States certainly did respond!

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

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

But I have another point to make.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Master Dreamer

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

“Dad, are you a dreamer?”

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

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

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

I began enumerating the many things I would want.

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

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

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

“Do you come up with answers?”

“Oh, yes!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about your next book?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the Majority Always Right?

That’s a serious question and needs to be answered. But it’s also a dangerous question, because a conniving leader could undermine our social order. Remember, our society consists not only of various levels of government. It includes families, social clubs, churches, and businesses; and to a large extent, our society is based on the “majority rule” principle. That’s what local and national elections are all about.

Before we proceed, please understand I am not advocating a rejection of elections, majority-rule in Congress, congregational government in local churches, and so forth. In any scenario, the first result could be the rise of a dictator, and that is abhorrent. But also understand this: even with majority rule in place, we can still have a dictator, anarchy, or chaos when we elect people who have no fear or reverence for God into office. (Think that one through.)

How can that be? I’m glad you asked. Let’s look at a couple of stories in the Bible. We’ll start with Exodus 32:1-6. Moses was on the mountain getting the rules for living (Ten Commandments) from God. But the majority of the people wanted a god they could see, so they chose a common god of the middle east: a young bull (“golden calf”) to worship. Even Aaron the high priest – Moses’ brother – cooperated with them. But the majority was wrong. In this case, majority-rule was disastrous.

Look at Numbers 13. The Israelites had left Egypt, spent two years hearing from God and getting their society established. They were at the border of the Promised Land, and “home” was in sight. God – who created the world and all that is in it, so He has the right to do what He wants – told Moses to send twelve men across the river to get information.

All 12 gave a good report about the weather, the fertility of the soil (they even brought back figs, pomegranates, and a huge cluster of grapes), the availability of forests for lumber, etc. But 10 of them (83.4 percent) said they should not go into the land, while Joshua and Caleb (16.6 percent) gave the correct report.

The masses agreed with the majority, and God issued judgment: all those over the age of twenty at that time would never enter the Promised Land. All except for Joshua and Caleb, because they agreed with God. The ungodly majority ruled, and they reaped disaster.

However, Proverbs 11:14 says, “Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.” So what should we do?

We must have wise leadership; but we – the people – must be knowledgeable enough to 1) know who is wise, 2) be courageous enough to elect them, and 3) be wise enough to follow them. How do we gain that wisdom?

Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear and reverence of the Lord is the foundation of all wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.” That is beautifully self-explanatory.

Proverbs 11:10a says, “When the righteous [Godly people] do well, the city [society] rejoices [prospers].” Proverbs 29:2 says, “When the righteous [Godly people] are in authority, the people [society] rejoice; but when the wicked [ungodly people] are in power, the people groan [suffer].”

We have seen a lot of that in our nation’s history.

Therefore, since the “majority-rule” concept often gets us into trouble, we should be looking in a different direction. Where should we be looking? Some of you readers may get bothered with me, but the answer is found in the Bible. We should be looking for wise people to lead us.

One man exclaimed, “I am not looking for a Christian to lead me; I want a good politician!” His friend standing nearby mockingly said, “Isn’t ‘good politician’ an oxymoron?” I laughed and said, “I know some good politicians. They are people of high integrity and who cannot be swayed by money, sex, fame, or power. Most of them are Godly folk who pray about their own life, and about pending decisions. But I also know some non-Christian politicians of high integrity.”

We need to understand that the majority is not always right. Therefore, like Joshua and Caleb, we should not be swayed by the opinion of the masses; rather we should study Scripture, pray about decisions, and base our lives on what is right in God’s sight – even if we must stand alone.

But remember: God will be standing with us.

Keep this with you, and read it several times before you vote.