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.

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.

Who Should Be Thankful?

Mr. Linzey,

I read your columns, and I can figure out what you think about Thanksgiving Day. But why does the celebration have to be Christian? Why can’t just anyone celebrate it?   (Gregg)

Thank you for your question. The simple truth is, everyone can enjoy Thanksgiving Day festivities. However, two questions need to be addressed: what is the memorial, and what was involved in the original celebration?

America’s Thanksgiving Day was a harvest festival based on giving thanks to God for His provision and protection. It was, and is, definitely Christian in nature, and everyone can commemorate it. But to properly observe and celebrate Thanksgiving Day, as intended, requires a belief in the almighty, loving, justice-oriented, Judeo-Christian God. Otherwise the observance is relegated to a holiday which honors a different god, an assortment of gods, or not god at all. Merely a holiday weekend.

But there’s something else to consider.

Can I celebrate the Kansas City Chief’s Super-bowl victory last February by conducting a fundraising campaign for the 49ers? No. Can I celebrate Pearl Harbor Day by lamenting the defeat of the Japanese Empire? No. Therefore, can we celebrate our American Thanksgiving Day, in context with its history and inherent meaning, by worshiping other gods and celebrating it differently than intended? No.

Having said that, any non-Christian – of whatever religion – can show gratitude and give thanks for blessings. The question is: to whom would he show gratitude and give thanks?

While a Jew or Christian cannot worship Allah during the fast of Ramadan, adherents of other religions cannot meaningfully celebrate Thanksgiving Day as originated in America while employing a different religious world view.

While anyone can enjoy the day off and be grateful for blessings, only those who worship and honor the Living God can truly celebrate Thanksgiving Day as intended. Am I being biased or prejudiced? Biased, yes. Prejudiced, no. I am merely being true to the concept. (Bias and prejudice have two different meanings.)

The intent of our Thanksgiving Day celebration is to worship and honor our provider, our Father, God.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the history behind Thanksgiving Day.

For the 50 surviving Plymouth Pilgrims and their 90 Wampanoag neighbors celebrating between September 21 and November 11 in 1621, wild turkey was on the menu along with wheat, “Indian” corn, barley, peas, waterfowl, five deer, bass and cod. Actually, the Native Americans brought a lot of the food, including the five deer.

Since then, we’ve added items such as ham, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, popcorn, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. The Pilgrims probably made pumpkin pudding sweetened with honey, but they didn’t have sugar, crust or whipped topping…and No Pumpkin Pie!! Life was tough back then.

Because the wild turkey was fast and alert with sharp eyesight, Benjamin Franklin wanted to make it the United States national symbol. Also, the turkey reminded Franklin of God’s provision in our early colonial existence. (The turkey lost out to the Roman Emblem: the Eagle.)

For years, Thanksgiving was observed randomly, but the first Thanksgiving Proclamation was made on June 20, 1676. Thanksgiving proclamations were made annually by the US Congress from 1777-1783 and celebrated in December. George Washington declared a national day of Thanksgiving in 1789 and 1795; John Adams in 1798 and 1799; and James Madison twice in 1815.

The next national Thanksgiving Day was declared during the American Civil War in April of 1862 by Abraham Lincoln. In 1863, he declared Thanksgiving for August 6, and for the last Thursday in November. He declared a similar observance in 1864, establishing a precedent that has been followed by every president since then.

After a few deviations of time, the last Thursday in November was finally chosen as the day for our National Day of Prayer and thanksgiving, but remained a non-holiday tradition until President Franklin Roosevelt signed the bill on November 26, 1941. It established the fourth Thursday in November (in perpetuity) as our national Thanksgiving public holiday.

Eleven days later, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor!

Friends, we never know what lies in store for us from one day to the next. Life is so precious, yet circumstances are so unpredictable. We humans tend to be self-centered, but our heavenly Father loves us so much, and is willing to help us in times of trouble. So, let us, all around the world, humbly admit our need for God, and set time aside to honor Him. And with heart-felt gratitude, let’s thank Him for all that He has done for us.

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

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?

Lessons from the Flock – Vision

“You’re a bird-brain!”

Did you ever hear that? It’s a derogatory statement and meant to degrade someone. But I identify with it because I am learning a lot from my fowl friends – my five chickens.

I’ve noticed that the birds often gather at the fence and look in the direction of the kitchen window. When I move around in the room, their heads follow my movements and they seem to be waiting for me to come out. But when they are standing in bright daylight, how can they see me through a window in a room with subdued lighting?

It was research time.

Of the many documents on the internet, I found an article by Cynthia Berger published on July 19, 2012 titled “True Colors: How Birds See the World.” That was an eye-opener. Using a device called a spectrophotometer (it measures light that is reflected from a surface), researchers found colors in the UV range that most birds can see.

Quoting from her second paragraph, “…systematic testing of bird vision revealed something unexpected: many bird species can see UV light. Scientists also have learned that many birds have plumage that reflects UV light.”

I had never thought about chickens being able to see differently from humans. Oh, I know chickens have enhanced hearing and smelling, but enhanced sight? Amazing.

I’ve always wondered how a bird can distinguish a male from a female, but now I know. Both males and females of barn swallows, mockingbirds, western meadowlarks (and many others) look remarkably alike to humans. But viewing them through the spectrophotometer we find they look totally different from each other. They, of course, have the same shape but different coloring. Another example: To humans, the blue tit male looks identical to the female. But looking at the UV reflection, we find a bright spot on the males’ head. The female spots that immediately and says “That’s my man!”

Female birds know which eggs are hers because various eggs reflect UV light differently. Choosing to raise her own offspring, some females either break or eject foreign eggs from her nest.

Birds will more readily eat food that reflects greater amounts of UV light. That explains another question I had: why do my chickens go for corn more than wheat? Corn reflects more UV. Also, insects reflect a higher amount of UV than green grass. Watch out, moths and bugs; my chickens are loose in the yard and you are doomed!

Speaking of moths, it’s fun to watch a hen run at full speed then half jump and half fly with neck fully extended to grab a moth or other flying insect out the air.

But all that helps to explain why the birds are at the fence looking in my direction: some of my clothing is reflecting UV light. They see me through the window, and they assume that I’ll bring food out to them. Sorry, chicks. I’ll feed you later.

When I think of birds’ ability to see what humans cannot see, it reminds me of spiritual sight. In Ephesians 1:18, the Apostle Paul said, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope to which God has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”

“Eyes of your heart”? Sounds strange because blood-pumping hearts don’t have eyes. What Paul means is we have inner understanding, insight, the discernment or comprehension of spiritual reality as it pertains to Almighty God, and verified in the Holy Bible. I am not referring to Hinduism, Buddhism, spiritism, spiritualism, other religions, or any New Age idea. I am not talking about mindless concepts that exalt man, nature, familiar spirits, or demons.

An example of a mindless statement – proclaimed to be spiritual insight by Matshona Dhliwayo – is: “The Universe is one body; love is its heartbeat.” Not understanding either the universe or love, Dhliwayo is wrong on both counts.

True spiritual insight comes from God, and enables us to understand real life – both temporal and eternal – from God’s perspective. Second Corinthians 2:16 informs us that we can “have the mind of Christ”; that is, receive His thoughts. This requires us to stop being self-centered, and to become God-centered or Christ-centered.

As birds can see some of what humans cannot see, we can ask God to grant us wisdom and insight which would enable us to understand what we normally cannot “see”. That’s not being a bird-brain; it’s being in tune with God.

Living a Holy Life

Some years ago, I was talking with an acquaintance about a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“Oh, I wouldn’t go that THAT church! They act holier than thou!” he exclaimed.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means, uh, well, you know – they act real holy and religious!”

“Well, what does that mean?” I asked again.

“What’s the matter? I thought you knew this religion stuff.”

“I know about religion and Christianity, but you are condemning those people. So, tell me what you mean, and why.”

He walked away because, not being a Christian, he was trying to justify his own sinful lifestyle (it was bad) by demeaning those who were living a Godly lifestyle.

But he said they were “acting holy,” so let’s talk about holiness.

If a person or thing is holy, it is separated. Being in a state of holiness is being dedicated or set apart to God. Holiness begins in our minds, and is an ongoing lifestyle. Holiness is a work in progress. It results in spiritual transformation. Holiness should permeate our entire life, for it involves everything we do, think, and say.

1 Peter 1:15-16 says, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God—who chose you to be his children—is holy. For he himself has said, You must be holy because I am holy.” And Romans 12:2a: “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.” But we have to purposely cooperate with God for that to happen.

Several related words are: consecrated, hallowed, saint, belonging (to God), God-like.

I admire people for saying what many pastors and teachers are either hesitant or outright afraid to say. Holiness results in fearing, honoring, revering, loving, and living for God. But do Christians actually fear, revere, or honor God?

Based on what I’ve seen in the church across our nation, many Christians – adults as well as the youth – do not fear God. Rather than living a life wholly dedicated to God and teaching others to know and accept Christ for who He is, misguided Christians and church leaders are choosing to enjoy some of the evil pleasures of the world. In an attempt to be relevant to the world, they have become like the world.

We need to ask ourselves: “Where do we spend our time? Our money? Where do we invest our emotions and our intellect? What are our priorities in life?” Answering these questions truthfully could help the church – including you and me – get back on track.

Several church denominations are historically described as holiness churches because of their historic stand for Christ and against sin and worldliness. But a great many of their members now go where the sinful world goes, and do what the sinful world does. Many of them don’t understand that when they act like the world, they have diluted or lost their witness for Christ.

Jesus was consistent in remaining separate from the world while ministering life to the people. He said in John 17:15-17, “I’m not asking you [Father God] to take them [Jesus’ followers] out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They are not part of this world. Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth.”

Jesus didn’t mimic the lifestyle of the people in order to save them. Instead, while remaining holy and dedicated to the Father, He presented truth with the love and authority of the Father; and those who desired to live for God joined Jesus. Therefore, we, also, must remain separate from the world while living in and ministering to the world. We don’t need to act or look like the sinful world while trying to accomplish God’s goals. If we look and act like the world, they might see no need to change.

We must use the proper methods of rescuing the perishing, and that entails being holy while sharing the Holy Word of God. We must know the Father by knowing Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit can empower us and equip us with spiritual gifts to minister to the world and influence them for Christ. (Read Ephesians 4:11-16 and First Corinthians 11:4-11.)

Second Corinthians 6:17a says, “Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.” By thought, word, action, and lifestyle, let’s honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

Charter of the Christian Faith

My new book, Charter of the Christian Faith, has been finalized, and is available on Amazon. It opens up, discusses, and reveals Jesus’ thoughts and intent in the Beatitudes. These 8 tightly-packed verses are 8 Steps Toward Godliness and reveal what and who the Church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be.

As Dr. Gary Royer (Professor of Intercultural Studies, Southwestern Assemblies of God University) said, “An avid storyteller, Gene taps into this talent to graphically illustrate each declaration of this treasured section of the Sermon on the Mount. Although some Bible readers consider the Beatitudes as lofty idealism to serve as an unreachable goal to remind us of our scarred humanity, Gene describes real-life means to actually incorporate these principles into our daily life.”

Michael Leggins (Professional Civil Engineer, Austin, TX, retired; Vice President, General Manager of Recology, San Francisco, CA, retired; President of the USS Yorktown CV-5 Survivor’s Club), had this to say, “This read helps us to understand the steps to spiritual maturity and the joyful life we desire when we fully surrender to Gods will. As I read, I feel the author is talking to me, and I know that’s how everyone will feel when they read the book.”

This 140-page book will reveal Jesus’ teaching in a real and easy-to-understand manner, and will greatly assist you in your walk with the Lord. My neighbor just informed me that he wants 3 copies.

The book is available for $9.99 plus shipping on Amazon.com in paperback, and for $2.99 plus transfer for e-book. You can find the book at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=S.+Eugene+Linzey&ref=nb_sb_noss_2.

However, I have 13 copies of Charter of the Christian Faith on hand. The first 13 of you who request the book from me will get it much quicker than ordering from Amazon. Also, my price, including shipping, is only $12.80 per book, where the total price from Amazon is about $14.60 for a single order. If you order 2 or more from me, the total price drops to $11.60 per copy.

Author M. Carolyn Steele wrote, “With dedicated purpose, Linzey has endeavored to unveil the deeper teachings revealed in the Beatitudes that will guide each of us along the path to a more meaningful Christian life.”

I look forward to hearing from you.